Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dear Candidate: Would you mind talking about your goals?

It's midterm election time. How are you going to vote? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Your side - whichever it is - is the only one that will save America from utter financial and moral collapse. The other side - whichever it is - is full of liars and hypocrites controlled by unscrupulous cabals who, for financial reasons, are willing to ruin the common man. And woman.

I am so tired of political invective. I have come close to unfriending some very nice people on Facebook because they are always saying nasty things about the only party of truth and light, i.e., the one I favor. (Though nasty internet comments are certainly not limited to discussions of politics: I just read through a long list of vicious personal attacks that had to do with the genetics of an Airedale terrier.)

Can we for a moment lay aside our overweening sense of personal righteousness and talk reasonably about goals?

Politics is a process of people working together to achieve goals that are good for everybody. Often we agree on the goals, though we disagree violently about how to achieve them. For example, I imagine we all think that if Great-Grandmother develops Alzheimer's disease and becomes difficult to care for, she should not be left in the street to fend for herself. We probably agree that all children who have the capacity to read and write should be taught to do so. The vast majority of us think it's a good idea for a large country like ours to have an interstate highway system. Nearly all of us would like to live in an economy where jobs are plentiful and wages are adequate.

Where we disagree, of course, is how to achieve our goals, and a two- or multi-party system can stimulate our thinking by challenging our presuppositions and enlarging the range of options we consider. It's hard to believe, but several decades ago Democrats and Republicans often discussed issues respectfully and worked together to arrive at solutions. The Internet would allow us to do this again, if only we would stop calling names.

How are you going to vote in November? How about setting party labels aside and asking some goal-oriented questions of your candidates? And since many candidates are good at spinning their answers, how about setting campaign rhetoric aside and looking at what your candidates have actually accomplished in each area?

Here are ten goals that are important to me, with questions I need to consider:
  1. Which candidate's policies are more likely to help people escape from poverty? (I put this in first place because I am a Christian, and the ethical issue that receives the most space in the Bible is concern for the poor. I believe each party has a valid contribution to make to this issue, and I'd like to see both parties make it one of their major goals.)
  2. Whose policies are more likely to create long-term jobs?
  3. Whose policies will have a better effect on public health?
  4. Whose ideas are more likely to provide high-quality education for children of all socioeconomic levels?
  5. Whose ideas will better help us restore our decaying infrastructure?
  6. Who is more likely to handle finances responsibly, keeping budgets balanced and planning for the future?
  7. Who is more likely to show responsibility for the environment, keeping in mind not only our present needs but also the needs of generations to come?
  8. Who is least likely to bow to the special interests that are financing his or her campaign? Who is least likely to be influenced by lobbyists? For that matter, which special interests are behind which candidates? (Open Secrets is a nonpartisan site that will help you follow the money that is following your candidates.)
  9. Who is more likely to make accurate public statements? (Fact Check is a nonpartisan site that helps to sort out fact from fiction.) Note: It is possible to make an inaccurate statement without lying, but you probably don't want either a liar or an ignorant person representing you.
  10. Who has the better understanding of the common good - that is, that society depends on our working together, especially to help those who can't help themselves and to build that which we can't build alone - and not just on our getting the best possible deal for our individual selves?
I don't believe either party has a corner on morality, justice, truth, intelligence, or good will. There are a few people of integrity and a lot of scoundrels leading both parties. I'd like to see us stop bickering about means and get to the important questions - what are we trying to accomplish in our towns, counties, states, and nation? And how can we work together to reach those goals?


    Joyce said...

    Hello LaVonne: Those are my thoughts exactly. I would love to hear an actual debate--about these very issues. No goofy gaffs nor snarls allowed!

    Thanks for doing this.


    Anonymous said...

    Thank you, LaVonne. I appreciate your thoughts, and the list of issues to consider is helpful for me. I tend to be confused about political issues and what to consider when choosing between two candidates. Thanks!

    Helen said...

    Hi LaVonne - great food for thought. Thank you. I am not an American so don't need to tax my brain ready for vote casting any time soon but what you say crosses the national divides and is just as relevant here in the UK as in the USA. I think basic principles are the key to politics and asking about goals certainly seems to offer a way into those underlying beliefs.
    However something else you mention is of great interest to me just now. I too am intrigued by the virulent comments that seem to fill the internet just now.
    Does the anonymity afforded by it free people to say things that they wouldn't say in person?
    I often read articles or follow the discussions on a variety of websites and the teacher in me recognises the taunts of the playground in so many of them. Insults and invective aplenty are hurled at those who disagree with the writer and there seems little apparent willingness to offer or own rational thoughts or arguments; or anyone else's right to disagree.
    Maybe it's the frustration of feeling unheard or ineffective when your political agenda is not represented in the seats of power. Maybe it's what many people really think but the constraints of polite society prevent them from expressing their true feelings. Whatever the cause I find myself increasingly uncomfortable at the sheer virulence unleashed in so many quarters. Maybe we all need to be more willing to think of our goals and share them more openly, knowing that it's ok for others to think differently.
    Personally I love your list of goals - especially the priority order.
    A great post - thank you