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Judging Riders Ė and Politicians

 David Alan Black

I enjoy attending horse shows, particularly dressage competitions. What a judge looks for during a competition may have some bearing upon the way we evaluate candidates for political office.

The first thing Iíve noticed when attending dressage competitions is how a judge always tries to distinguish between what is good and what isnít. To do this he must watch the competitor very closely, then try to analyze why things went well or not. I do not want to preach to anybody, but donít you think it might be a good idea for us to closely evaluate candidates before deciding who to vote for? I have found that, when we do so, we are usually faced with incontrovertible facts Ė facts that we cannot alter and that we shouldnít try to alter, simply because they are a matter of fact. At least thatís the way a judge should think.

I have also noticed that the more experienced the judge is, the easier it is for him to make an accurate evaluation of a ride. It always helps if he has been a rider himself. But even if he has never ridden, he can study very carefully to acquire the necessary knowledge. I have been studying politics for only a few short years, and can hardly claim for myself any sort of expertise in the matter. I guess I try to make up for that by avid reading and study.

Judges must be completely detached from the riders. They must not take any notice of past reputations or of which rider is in the ring. They must judge what they see then and there, with no thought of ďWell, he did much better/worse the last time.Ē This is very difficult, and can only be done with concentration. In an election, of course, we must evaluate the past every bit as much as the present; but I think the point is still well taken: we must be absolutely honest and assess what we see before us with no thought for anything else.

Judges, at least at major dressage competitions like the Olympics, do not get too carried away with small technicalities. They never concentrate, say, on the front legs of the horse and ignore the hind legs. They try to see the whole horse and put it all together. As I said above, the more judging (and riding) one has done, the better one will be able to judge what is important. Thatís why itís so important for all of us to be good students of politics and society if we are to judge politicians aright.

In dressage, itís not about winning as much as itís about doing better next time. The judge therefore tries to point out to the rider what was good and what needs improving. If he is a good judge, he will be reasonable in his remarks and stick to the performance. He will avoid being sarcastic (at least too sarcastic). He also tries not to be too dogmatic. He knows he is a fallible human being.

In short, the more knowledge you have the better it is when it comes to assessing riders Ė or politicians. If you make some misjudgments at first donít be disheartened. We all make mistakes. So letís learn from them. It is simply a matter of practice to get really good at judging good from bad. Probably the hardest thing to do (I know this is true for me) is to detach yourself completely. You should be able to judge fairly even if your own son or daughter is running for political office. That is where the difficulty lies. It is more important than anything else that we should be absolutely honest, and correct, and try as hard as we can to make godly choices, remembering it is not our job to get someone elected (thatís the Lordís business) but to vote our consciences.

September 29, 2004

David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.

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