Halloween’s over, but something even scarier is bound to appear in these remaining days before Tuesday’s elections. Allegations will arise, rumors will spread, and misinformation will pepper conversations about candidates and their positions on issues. Those garish costumes might get put away, but some of the masks will remain.
Local elections are always infinitely more difficult than presidential or even state-level affairs. They involve difficult choices between neighbors and friends, and the ramifications of those choices can have a lasting impact while waiting in line at the grocery store or attending the high school football game. The national party affiliations some wear like an old blanket become stretched and frayed in the face of issues that more directly affect our daily lives. Dyed-in-the-wool Republicans might find themselves advocating for higher taxes to support their child’s education, while lifelong Democrats might wonder how they ended up advocating for smaller government and tighter controls on spending. Calvin Coolidge once referred to these as “pocketbook issues,” and nowhere does our vote matter more.
I won’t waste time talking about the unprecedented privilege of our representative democracy; if people haven’t bought into their obligation to uphold what it means to be an American by now, it would fall on deaf eyes. Instead, I would exhort all of you to take these final few days before filling out your ballot to ask questions and demand answers of those running for office.
Weaker candidates fear questioning, while devious candidates paint the questioners as negative or inflammatory to avoid having to answer. Other candidates leave the answering to surrogates, hiding in plain sight by attending functions where they get to speak but questions are minimized. Their minions fill the comments sections on social media, running interference until people forget those questions were ever asked.
Looking for accurate information on candidates is much like panning for gold; it requires a bit of digging, and not everything you find has worth. You have to sift it through a filter before you find what you’re looking for, but make no mistake: What you end up with is incredibly valuable. Weaker candidates fear open forums like social media where unfettered access to information brings everything to light. Bereft of the moral high ground of truth, they resort to painting all information as “fake news” in the hope that people will ignore it. By proclaiming the whole medium broken, they aim for the unwelcome truths contained within it to disappear along with everything else.
Don’t be fooled. Start digging.
Perform simple Web searches to find credible sources that confirm or debunk claims you find online. In little time, you’ll be able to identify those candidates who truly align with your values. If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, it stands to reason that a candidate’s past positions are crucial indicators of future actions.
Most importantly, now’s the time to challenge people running for office in your town. Demand they clarify positions, make promises and take stands. If you can’t get questions answered this week, what are the odds you’ll ever get one when they’re in office? Get invested, get informed, and get out to the polls and vote on Tuesday.
As for those candidates who spend these last few days knocking down opponents rather than building themselves up, run the other way. It’s just another trick to get you to ignore their masks.