Tuesday, April 10, 2012
On Political Races
Rick Santorum’s “suspension” of his campaign essentially brings to an end the campaign to the Republican nod for presidential candidate. Gingrich threatens to make things interesting as he apparently aims for a contested convention later this year. Ron Paul probably never was a serious candidate, but someone angling for a platform for his increasingly off-the-wall positions.
As negative and cruel as the primary battles were, we at least got a good sense of what each candidate stood for. Everything they said was parsed and reparsed and criticized over and over. Lies and exaggerations and flip-flops were trumpeted for all to hear or read. This is really very good in a democracy. We get some idea of what a candidate stands for and what we might expect from him or her . . . within a wide tolerance. Most candidates employ their etch a sketch upon taking office. President Obama certainly has.
All this makes me think of the sorry state of local politics as we know it. Most opportunities to see and question candidates are once-and-done if at all. We are inundated by negative commercials by and for those running for state and federal positions. We may get an article or two on races for county seats, maybe a questionnaire published only online (in hard to find places), and a meet-and-greet or two. At the borough, town, township and school board level nothing is the usual mode.
We need several venues at which to see and hear and question candidates for these local seats. As it is, we are forced to judge based on campaign ads and mailings full of usually false accusations and promises that mean little or nothing in the local setting.
Once, when 11 people were running for a township seat (or maybe it was two seats; I can’t remember), I held a well-advertised public forum which all candidates attended. The candidates outnumbered the public. There were newspaper stringers there, but their stories were short and uninformative. In short, it fizzled.
That’s the other side of the story. What comes first, lack of interest by the voters or lack of interest by the candidates? Concerned citizens should first of all realize how important these local races are, and second of all demand that the local media and the candidates themselves disseminate as much substantive (and truthful) information as possible. Face-to-face is important because the voters can more easily analyze the character and ethics of candidates that way.
Posted by Patrick Fero at 5:50 PM