Election season is in full swing. Candidates are scurrying about, the air waves are flooded, and your mailbox is stuffed. Candidates are desperate to get voters’ attention, so they may be saturating voters with ads or mailers, working their tails off going door to door to meet voters, or just trying to seduce voters with slick gimmicks. As the campaigns’ onslaught crescendos to Election Day, many people become annoyed and some grumble about too much money in politics, but that’s precisely the reason there is too much money in politics. Too many voters are not paying attention and are not doing their due diligence vetting the candidates, so candidates must be flush with cash to capture voters’ attention in the last few days before the election when the majority of voters finally take notice a choice is upon us.
Self-government is not a spectator sport. Citizens must actively participate in choosing our elected officials because each vote not only declares a choice, it grants consent to be governed. It doesn’t start and stop with each election either; citizens must monitor what our officials are doing between elections and make their preferences known regarding how we are being governed. If the majority of voters were paying close attention and conscientiously vetting the candidates, they would not need nearly as much money to get noticed.
In the same way the voters should pursue the candidates, the candidates should earnestly present themselves. The voters need to know a candidate’s background, experience, ideology, motivations, and values. If voters are going to make an intelligent choice and proffer their consent to be governed by a candidate, we need to know exactly who and what kind of person we are electing.
A common practice and problem with incumbents is that voters blindly or blithely reelect incumbents without any real reassessment or scrutiny of their performance, so incumbents routinely become complacent or even arrogant thereby refusing to actually campaign for reelection. History vindicates this practice with 90+% reelection rates, but if voters aggressively evaluated every elected official demanding a full accounting of their tenure, incumbents would be drawn out to defend their records and earn reelection. As it is, incumbents typically decline to debate any challengers lest they legitimize them.
Another shallow campaign strategy is style over substance. Some candidates only offer glitzy Madison Avenue packaging or an emotional Hollywood appeal solely supported by hackneyed platitudes. Alabama candidate for US Senate, Mike Durant, seems to be running such a hollow campaign. His very well done and inspiring commercials have been overwhelming the airwaves, but has anyone actually seen him in person on the campaign trail? All the other candidates are crisscrossing the state striving to get in front of voters at every county meeting and festival, but have any voters actually met Durant?
Durant is certainly a decorated military veteran and a certifiable war hero based on his service in Somalia that was aptly portrayed in the popular movie, “Blackhawk down.” Like Senator John McCain, Durant has a compelling story, but while military service is a laudable factor to consider, it cannot be the lone basis for election. Voters must know his platform, philosophy, and principles.
Almost every candidate in Alabama incessantly echoes President Trump’s prescriptions and policies which is fine, but who are you and what will you do? Recently unearthed video of Durant making very troubling statements about the Second Amendment have thus far gone unanswered. In the video, Durant repeats the leftist bromide that disarming the people will make them peaceful. The history and current comparison of blue and red cities shows that notion to be demonstrably and dreadfully wrong. Does Durant still believe that? Voters should be afforded the opportunity to question him and allow him to explain himself. Why has he not provided those opportunities?
There are also disconcerting allegations that progressive Republicans are behind his campaign. Enquiring voters want to know. Again, his military service is remarkable, but voters should never elect anyone solely on their resume without knowing the substance of the candidate and his goals. Durant may be a good choice, but he should not expect the voters to elect him based only on his polished ads and Madison Avenue manufactured persona. Nor should voters tolerate that minimal effort without thorough scrutiny. If he can do that, it’s the voters’ fault for not demanding more.
Our democratic republic is “of the people, for the people, and by the people.” Quite simply that means this wonderful experiment in self-government can only survive if the people are actively engaged in the processes of electing and governing. Voter engagement is the duty of both the candidates and the voters, so we must insist on the highest standards and transparency of those who seek to govern us. Our continued freedom depends on it.
“But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).
Pete Riehm is the host of Common Sense Radio heard 8 pm every Thursday on FMTalk106.5 or streaming at fmtalk1065.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on MEWE @PeteRiehm or read all his columns at http://www.renewamerica.com/.© Pete Riehm
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.