Monday, May 26, 2014

On Elections and Why I Hate Them

As much as I believe in the system of representative democracy and appreciate that I live in a country where it is practiced pretty successfully, truth is, I hate elections. Mainly, I hate campaigns. There just HAS to be a better way to do this.

We have a run-off primary election here in Texas tomorrow. The first primary election was in February or something, and it caught me completely off guard. I knew absolutely nobody on the ballot; I didn't even know much about the offices I was voting for. (Railroad commissioner? Really? We vote for railroad commissioner? Turns out, I guess, that the railroad commissioner is in charge of the oil industry in Texas, so it's a very important job, but I still can't believe it's an elected office.)

And the fact that it was a primary complicated things. Frankly, when it's Republicans versus Democrats, I usually can assume that the Republican is going to be closer to where I stand on issues. (However, for some of the smaller local offices, I'm not sure where they stand on big issues is as important as their general competence -- and how the heck am I supposed to know about that?)

The problem comes with choosing a Republican candidate that I like, because again, the difference is not in where they stand on issues, usually. The difference is in experience: Do they know the ins and outs of the job? Have they done something like this before and succeeded? Do they have the requisite skills to get the job done? And the difference is in character: Are they one to keep their word? Are they one to not be swayed by the temptation to act in their own best interest rather than in the interests of their constituents? Are they one to do the right thing even if it's hard?

And just how the heck do you get to know these things about people?

I addressed this problem with some friends at lunch the other day. One said that she went to the library, picked up a sample ballot, and then looked each candidate up online to get info about them. Brilliant. I did the same. You know what I found out? All candidates say nothing but positive things about themselves. (Duh.) And all candidates' opponents say nothing but negative things about their opponents. (Duh.) And any source of information that should be objective about the candidates cannot be trusted to be objective. (Duh -- and sigh.)

My friend who made this suggestion said that she mainly looked on a candidate's website for values statements. Thing is, Texas Republicans know what values other Texas Republicans want in a candidate and will trumpet them whether they personally hold them or not.

Not only that, but I'm finding myself getting a bit turned off, actually, by the "values statements" that I think this friend is looking for. One of these candidates (I don't remember who) made a big deal of the fact that he championed the effort to get the phrase "under God" put in the Texas state pledge. Now, I personally appreciate the fact that this phrase is in the pledge, I suppose. But if I'm honest about it, that's not something I would have wanted my state representative to spend a lot of energy, time, and effort on. Surely, there were more important things going on that needed his attention. The fact that he lists this on his website as one of the accomplishments he's most proud of . . . well, it rubs me the wrong way. As if he's just pandering to the churchy folks who are scanning his site looking for "values statements".

For February's election, I emailed a new friend from my daughter's school who seemed to be really into this political stuff and who seemed to be one with whom I would agree on most issues. She graciously gave me a detailed list of her recommendations (and she knew many of these people personally, so I trusted her). I hate to bug her again. I wish I could figure out how to get the objective information I need on my own.

Because I really do want to do this right. It does matter.

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