Thinking critically about elections

Summer is not quite over, and if what one finds at the local department store these days, winter must be right around the corner. Never mind that it’s ninety degrees out, Parkas and fleecy sweaters are plentiful and ready for purchase. This time of year also means that something else is right around the corner. Yes, election day will be here before we know it. That means that come the first Tuesday in November we have the opportunity to elect people to positions of government, from local council members to governors and U.S Senators. Yes I know it is still only August, but November will be here before we know it. A lot of candidates are hoping to get elected, and not just on the national and state levels. Local candidates are also important, and their positions often impact communities more strongly then one assumes.
So what does a topic on politics have to do with critical thinking? Maybe it is because that we can apply critical thinking to making decisions based on a great deal more then soundbites, political campaign signs stuck on every street corner, or television or radio ads that say little about the candidate, only that the other person is the worst choice a voter could make.
One problem with using critical thinking when it comes to choosing a political candidate for a particular office is a willingness to look past the hype and rhetoric and try to discern the facts surrounding the candidate when it comes to relevant issues that would accompany the job they are vying for. The other problem is finding that information needed to make the best choice.
Most political rallies and events do little to get to the source of issue related information, as these events are usually highly programmed and oft repeated throughout a campaign. One can hear a speech from one event and have a pretty good idea what will be said at all other events. Political debates can be useful, but often the questions posed to the candidates are often less about the job and more about matters that the position never really deals with. Also these debates can end up like well-mannered put-down matches, with little actual information on how candidate stand on issues gleaned from the event.
So what can a potential voter do to get credible information about a candidates views, or past decisions made on certain issues? If the candidate has held office, one can with a little bit of research find how they voted on certain issues. If they haven’t, then it is a little harder to glean information but not impossible. Most major parties have websites, and many candidates do as well. So it is not too impossible to gain information about where they stand on things. They also have contact information so that a potential voter, can, if they are so inclined email the candidate and see if they respond.
That is what I will be doing as part of a community service project for a local community website, This community site is new and a sort of second generation from The Spartanburg Spark, who I wrote for for nearly two years. I have joined up and moved my Miss Mom column there as well. I and the blog owner are going to come up with a list of questions for the candidates in our state and the local ones as well. We are also going to ask for questions from our readers. Then we will send our questions to the candidates we will be voting on. We will see who responds and publish the answers, as well as any other relevant information such as contact information, where to vote, and any non candidate information on this year’s ballot etc..
Why am I doing this? Because I am tired of politicians and political organizations going round and round about the same thing, of candidates painting pretty pictures with no substance, of the hype, poor and sometimes outlandish claims made that are completely untrue, and yet what a campaign is based on. I know that our political system is imperfect, but its what we got. I would hope that many of us are smart enough not to fall for the same old crap every election, but it seems that we do. It really bothers me, and I want to do something to change that.
Voting for a person simply because of a party affiliation is not necessarily the best choice for the job. It can be, but it is the individual that matters in the end, not necessarily who they are aligned with. Considering some of the people we have in office now, I have to wonder how they made it past their primaries. The only conclusions I can draw is that the voters either didn’t care, a better qualified person was defeated or didn’t run, voters didn’t understand the stakes, or simply believed the silliness they were told.
I don’t intend to be that kind of voter, and I intend to try to inform as many as I can before November. To me this isn’t about party affiliation, leanings towards the left or the right, or those hot button issues that will still be around, unsolved, come the next election. It is, to me about filling seats with people who can do a job, do it well, and represent their districts with honor and integrity, while looking at the bigger picture of the community of citizens who may be impacted by the decisions made.

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