The conventions are over, and the primaries have been held. Voters everywhere are now faced with choices about national and local candidates to provide the direction of their nation, their state, their county, their city or village. Huge amounts of money will be spent, and immeasurable personal efforts will be made. There will be canvassing, and advertising, and those awful robo-calls will try to disrupt our evenings. Gladhanders will work the aisles of our high school and college and professional football and basketball games. In the end, we will be glad most of all to be relieved of the constant political pounding.
All of that is true, but it is a fact that our choices will determine the direction of our communities, and that is a very big deal. We do not, we cannot, we must not choose a candidate on any other ground than how she or he will affect the policies of our communities, national, state or local. It is not who we want that matters. Most of all, primarily, alone among all else, we are most concerned, not about the individual candidate, but about what will happen to our lives and the lives of our families, friends and neighbors. The candidates, once elected, may or may not turn out to be who they sold themselves as, but what they do will affect us and our communities, in some instances, for the rest of our lives.
Here, however, lies a major difficulty. I’m just a little guy in a little corner of the world. And yet I am being asked to decide, by my vote, what I want to happen with education, with health care, with taxation, with the environment, and even, God save the mark, with our relations with a host of foreign nations. I have enough trouble balancing my checkbook. How can I decide how I want us to deal with Afghanistan or Russia or China? What could I possibly now about national and international economic policy? What could I possibly add to the efforts to provide reasonably priced health care?
The too easy solution is to say, “Well, this person seems to know what she’s talking about, and besides, she likes babies and goes to church on Sunday,” etc., etc. In other words, we bail out on our duty as citizens to choose the direction of our community, and instead we pick person over policy. Candidates, and the people who back those candidates, know that, and so they sell themselves, not on policy, but on personality. They talk about their youthful struggles and their religious beliefs. They parade their families around the stage. And, yes, they kiss babies. They do what they think we want, and we let them do it, because we don’t want to do the arduous work of understanding where we want our community to go.
So, want to be a real citizen? Want to be a knowledgeable voter? Want to really participate in the critical work of participating in American democracy? Then here’s a list. Get off your dead ass and figure out what you think are the correct answers. Then go pick the candidate who will do what you want.
I. THE WEALTH OF THE NATION IS BEING CONCENTRATED IN A VERY FEW PEOPLE AS NEVER BEFORE. IS THAT A GOOD THING OR A BAD THING? WHY?
II. THE PEOPLE NEED MEDICAL CARE. IS IT A RIGHT OR A PRIVILEGE? THE COST OF CARE IS OUT OF CONTROL. HOW DO WE BRING IT UNDER CONTROL?
III. THE COST OF EDUCATION IS SO HIGH THAT GRADUATES ARE SADDLED WITH DEBTS THAT OPPRESS THEM FOR YEARS. HOW CAN WE EDUCATE OUR YOUTH WITHOUT THAT CRUSHING DEBT? HOW IMPORTANT IS EDUCATION? AT WHAT LEVEL?
IV. PEOPLE NEED JOBS. THE WORLD HAS CHANGED, AND THE MANUFACTURING JOBS OF THE PAST ARE GONE FOREVER. SO HOW DO WE PROVIDE THOSE JOBS?
V. GLOBAL WARMING IS A FACT. DO WE IGNORE IT? IF NOT, WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
This is not an exhaustive list. In fact, it may not even be a good list. I beg you to respond here with your own list. The point I am making is that your choice of candidate has nothing to do with gender or race or even party. Your choice, perhaps as never before, determines what we will be as a country, a state, a county and a city or village. Do the work.