We are less than one year away from the election that will determine the next occupant of the White House. We’re not quite to the point where the real action takes place — that’s reserved for after voting starts with the Iowa caucuses — but things are starting to heat up. We’ve already seen a handful of debates, and the first of the failed candidates have dropped out of their respective races. In this 24-hour news cycle that we live in, we are constantly bombarded with the slings and arrows from both sides of the battle. To be honest though, the candidates on both sides are waging relatively boring campaigns. Maybe they’re just saving the good stuff for later.
From what I’ve seen and heard so far, the arguments seem more like childish taunts than legitimate discussions on policy. If you could bottle the most prominent comments by presidential hopefuls these days, you’d have an impressive collection for your whine cellar.
Contenders from both parties have made quite a bit of noise about the style and staging of their debates. They don’t like the questions. They don’t like the moderators. They don’t like the private conference rooms provided to them. They don’t like the temperature settings in the auditoriums. They don’t like the information that appears on the TV screen. They don’t like it when other candidates ask them questions.
And they whine about not getting enough questions, often spending more time complaining about not getting enough attention when they could use that time to (gasp!) actually answer the question.
Essentially, they don’t like debates. But they love the large audiences and free airtime the debates provide.
Let’s be honest: the overwhelming majority of candidates in both parties aren’t seriously trying to become president. What they really want is to boost their chances at making huge sums of money on speaking tours… or hawking their latest books… or maybe landing an easy money job with a cable news organization. Some just like to be the center of attention.
Oh sure, many of the contenders sound like they’re in it to win it all. But before you get excited about any one of them, I encourage you to view this presidential election from the right perspective: treat it like a job opening with you as the employer.
The first thing you should do is consider the responsibilities of the position. Granted, the average person doesn’t know all of the daily goings-on in the Oval Office, but anyone who took a single civics class in high school should have a basic understanding of how our government is supposed to work and what is expected of the people we elect to run it.
It’s not much different than hiring someone to work on your car. You want to know that the person with the tools has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing. Like me, you wouldn’t want someone tinkering with your engine who doesn’t know the difference between a distributor and an alternator. In the same way, I don’t have much confidence in handing the reins of our federal government to an amateur. That’s not to say that someone with many years in politics will automatically do a better job, but at least he or she should have a pretty good idea of what’s involved.
Then again, we Americans elect 435 people to the House every two years plus a third of the Senate, and there are plenty of know-nothings in that bunch.
As the field narrows and the eventual nominees become clear, we should do whatever it takes to find out where they stand on the things we think are important. It’s a waste of time for candidates to talk about what they’re against. I want to hear them explain, in detail, what they are for. Yes, I know that they’ll say anything to get elected. Even lie.
Newsflash: they all lie.
But only the informed voter knows how to catch them in the lie… and to hold them accountable. The only way to be informed is to ask questions, especially questions that the candidates don’t want to answer. Which brings us back to the current debates.
Right now, many candidates are trying to mold future debates into something that makes them look better. They simply want to stand in front of the camera and give prepared remarks, the scripts they practice over and over. They definitely don’t want you to knock them off their stride.
You want to know how their tax plans work? Just trust them, they say, and don’t try to confuse them with math. You heard them say one thing last week and then the complete opposite this week? Don’t confront them with facts, they tell you.
Sorry, but if you want my vote… you’d better be ready to earn it. And that starts with being able to take the heat.
(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald, November 5, 2015.)