There is a toxic tradition today of presidential candidates being pressured into releasing their personal medical information. It can only be used as a disgusting tool that moves debate away from anything resembling actual substance. Candidates like John McCain and Bernie Sanders have faced nasty attacks, but anyone being honest will admit both are examples of candidates with a tremendous amount of experience.
Our country shouldn't lean on one person so much that an illness or death in the White House would send our country to a grinding halt. We have a system in place to handle the loss of a president. So if the thought of a certain vice presidential candidate scares you, don't vote for that ticket.
Some cultures may overvalue their elders, but as Americans we are much worse. We pretend to value them when it is convenient, but as soon as there's an opportunity to use age against someone we jump on it. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act made workplace discrimination against people 40 and over illegal. Wouldn't mandatory medical exams for candidates violate the sentiment behind this?
In my eyes, focusing on a candidate's medical records is nothing but a way to mask ageist tactics. Making a joke about someone's age is one thing, but using someone's medical history as a weapon is wrong. No one should have to give up their medical privacy in exchange to run for or execute a political office.
Another tradition the political circus celebrates today is when candidates release tax returns. Virtually zero voters will actually view the documents for themselves. Here's what happens:
- Pundits speculate wildly before they actually have any information.
- Candidates are pressured into forfeiting privacy.
- Pundits examine and exaggerate the documents, moving discussions away from anything resembling substance.
Medical and financial records both get injected into this specific formula, but the media has countless variations where they change the second step to fit whatever they think will enrage or frighten viewers. But when it comes to financials, tax returns aren't an accurate representation of someone's wealth. Even if they were accurate representations, what is the best that can come of it? A candidate being shamed for being broke? For being too wealthy? Is there some specific financial background required to make someone a good president? When a heckler tried to discredit him by asking if he had ever been poor, Milton Friedman responded with the following:
Is there one of you who is going to say that you don't want a doctor to treat you for cancer unless he himself has had cancer?
Don't waste your concern on the health of a candidate's bank account or body, because there's already plenty of toxicity voluntarily coming out of politicians' mouths. These odd obsessions only leave a more polluted political climate.
If you want to see a move toward civility and substance in politics, you should be disappointed by any effort to codify these superficial practices into law.