There’s been a lot of noise these last several months as primaries and caucuses have proceeded. Candidates have dropped out. Battle lines have been drawn. Facebook friends lists have been purged of opposing viewpoints, sometimes justifiably, as people have begun to degenerate to name calling rather than persuasion in their boredom with the arguments for and against the candidates. Political conversation has devolved into long threads consisting of memes and posts to the same handful of articles for or against candidates.
It’s noisy out here in cyberland. There’s so much being said and not much being communicated. For those in the states tomorrow and next week that are facing the next primaries and caucuses in both parties, I have a word of encouragement. For a moment, stop listening to your friends. Stop listening to the pundits on television. Stop looking at the polls. Tune out the dire warnings of the destruction of America if you vote for, or don’t vote for, this or that candidate. Just take a moment and breath.
It is true this is an important election. Perhaps even the most important election in my life time, then again, perhaps not. The same dire warnings were present the last two election cycles as well. But, tipping points in a nation are funny things, striking suddenly to transform what was into something new. And the something new is often not pretty, and often very painful for all those in the middle of that transformation. And elections have consequences. So, it is true that this is am important election. Which is why it is even more important tonight, and in the coming days, for YOU, the voter, to step back for a moment from all the noise and do something important.
You, dear reader, are an adult, with a working brain. You, dear reader, are a person with ideas, values, and thoughts on what is important in your life, what is important in the life of your children, and what is important in the life of your nation. You have lived a life that has given you experiences and insights that are uniquely yours. Those experiences and insights inform your understanding of what’s important in this election. In other words, your vote, is your decision, and it should be based on what YOU believe is important, rather than who is screaming the loudest prediction of doom.
I encourage each one of you to sit for a little while in a quiet space. Grab a pen or pencil, and a sheet of paper (if you must use your computer, shut down your internet lest the noise of the world fill your space). Write down a list of the things you believe a President has some control over. Write down a list of the problems, issues, solutions you think are important for the next President to address. To start, just write your list, putting everything you can think of on that list as it pops into your brain.
Next, write numbers next to that list as to what’s most important to you. Group solutions with the problems, and if there are problems you don’t have an accompanying solution for, try to think what solution you would like to see in light of your understanding of the role of government, and particularly the role of the President. Strike through the things that really aren’t all that important, or don’t fit with the role of President as you understand it. Then rewrite that list, in order of what’s most important to you, with solutions and issues together.
After you have done this, take a little time to find out what each of the candidates actually says about those issues most important to you. Take a little time to research what each candidate has actually done on those issues, whether in the public sector as an elected or appointed official, or in the private sector as a supporter of candidates and causes. You can look at the candidate websites, or even watch some of the debates on YouTube. You can try a quiz like ISideWith (if you do that, be sure to look at all the available answers under “other”, all the questions in the more links at the bottom of each section, and use the sliders to prioritize your issues for the best results). One note on these quizzes, they tabulate only what a candidate says currently about an issue, not what they have done or what they have said previously about an issue. You can do Google searches with the candidate’s names and terms like voting record or donor record plus the specific issue. If, at this point, there are still pundits or news sources you trust to provide unbiased information, you can look at what others are saying on the issues you care about. If you’re a conservative, Conservative Review, Heritage Foundation, and other such sources usually offer reasonably unbiased scorecard systems for Republican candidates on issues that Republicans typically consider important. I’m sure the Democrats have something similar.
When you’ve done all this, you can probably do most of it in an hour or two, take a few minutes to breath again. Then relax tonight, hang out with your family, watch some television, read a good book. Let your list of things that are important and your research mull around in the back of your mind undisturbed for a while as you go about enjoying your evening.
Tomorrow (or whenever your primary happens to be), go to the polls with three things in mind.
- This is a primary. The purpose is to select the best person for your party for the job of President based on your particular understanding of the job description.
- Your vote is your vote. What’s important to you, and who you think is best suited from the current choices, on whatever criteria YOU think is important is what should guide your decision.
- You are perfectly capable of making this decision. What your neighbor thinks, what the pundits think, what your pastor thinks or what your Congressman and Senator think isn’t what’s important. If you respect those people, listening to what they say can help inform your decision, but that doesn’t mean you’ve gotta agree with them (or disagree). We’re all grown ups who have reached the age of majority voting in these elections. And as such, capable of making our own choices.
Be blessed and be a blessing, and happy voting!