Valley Voices

Danielle R. Shapazian: ‘Perplexing’ best describes 2016 presidential race

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton The Associated Press

Being president of the United States is not easy. Neither is getting children to eat their vegetables or brush their teeth. Yet, someone has to do it.

We need leaders. Without their talents, we’d be engulfed in chaos. Kids would eat candy every day. We’d cut down every tree in the forest. Foreign enemies would aim for our shores.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think for ourselves.

When I first became eligible to vote, I filled out the requisite paperwork and checked the party box as an independent. I was a teenager with my own opinions. I fancied the idea that I wasn’t beholden to anyone’s point of view except my own.

It took an election or two before I realized I had made a big mistake. I had inadvertently signed up to be a member of the American Independent Party, an affiliation which offered its own constraints. Maybe I was more conventional than I had previously imagined.

I rectified my error, signing on to one of the Big Two, the Democrat or Republican moniker irrelevant to this discussion as I’ve always stood somewhere in the overlap anyway. The first time I voted for president, Ronald Reagan won the election.

Thirty-six years later, I am perplexed. I don’t support Hillary Clinton. I don’t support Donald Trump. The attributes of the other candidates remain unclear.

I would love to see a woman as president. Women excel in a variety of leadership traits. They are good at multitasking, having the ability to juggle many responsibilities at the same time. Women can be talented negotiators, deftly using their emotional intelligence to build consensus.

Despite Clinton’s strengths, I have been unable to reconcile myself to her email controversy. As secretary of state, she ran sensitive government communications through a private computer server in her home.

Clinton and I share a commonality. We have both been employed by the federal government. I’m a boss who is paid to lead.

I use numerous electronic passwords to access the various computer applications essential to my job. I have so many different passwords that I can’t keep track of all of them by memory. I have resorted to listing the various codes on separate slips of paper that I keep hidden in a secret place.

In addition to this first line of defense, I am also expected to use an encryption process when I share protected information. Aside from a few human resources or educational sites, I am unable to access any of these portals from my home computer. (I have a government-issued Blackberry that I can use for email.) Why should Clinton have been afforded a less stringent set of rules?

Then there is Donald Trump. What I appreciate about his campaign is not really about him at all. I like the fact that he has fired up a group of supporters who want to change the status quo. They want to take off the wheels of a political machine that has been chronically fueled by privilege and influence. But a candidate’s character must speak for itself long before I pivot toward his ideas. I have no confidence that Trump would be able to lasso his flippant attitude long enough to maintain my respect. I want a strong, yet gracious president. And, yes, I would care if he shot someone in the street.

I would favor a candidate who supported bipartisan collaboration and worked to narrow the chasm. I would gladly support a leader who could shake hands across the aisle and lead us toward a brighter tomorrow. Instead, we are wading through a season of false labels, misrepresentations and schoolyard bullying.

As I watch the presidential wannabes jockey for position, I assess their potential with the same eye I use when hiring a new employee.

I listen intently, but with a skeptical ear. Anyone can make bold promises. Show me what you’ve already accomplished. Model your integrity and show me your smarts.

If you bring forth all these things – as well as a confidence tempered by humility – you will get my vote.

Meanwhile, I’ll take comfort in a bumper sticker I saw recently. It appears I’m not the only one who is confused.

Two names were pasted on the back of the car: Kennedy and Johnson. In red, white and blue.

Danielle R. Shapazian is a nurse and writer who lives in Fresno. She can be reached at