Commentary: 6 questions to ask before you vote

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 5, 2008

By Tom Campbell
Every election is unique but this has been one of the strangest in many years. Pollsters report a large percentage of voters still undecided about whom they will choose in Tuesday’s primary elections. All the intense focus on the presidential campaign, coupled with the competition in both Republican and Democratic gubernatorial primaries, has made it hard to understand the issues and the candidates in other races.
Not so many years ago we had the chance to size up the candidates ourselves. Stump speeches, community rallies, and frequent stops at country stores forced candidates to mingle with us, listen to our concerns and share with us their reasons for running. Issues and candidates were frequently the conversation around dinner tables, bridge tables, office water coolers, and social gatherings.
Today’s political campaigns have been taken over by professional consultants who specialize in packaging both the candidate and the message so as to appeal to target groups likely to turn out for their candidate. For example, why are both Democrats running for governor promising property tax relief for senior citizens? The consultants know that the largest group that votes is seniors, so they promise them a “cookie” to get their support. Instead of voters framing the issues, it is the consultants and candidates who often do so.
Today’s candidate spends most of his or her time soliciting contributions, so they can buy TV time to deliver carefully crafted messages that have been focus-group tested. We seldom see the candidates, and when we do it is in managed environments where prearranged rules of engagement prevent direct confrontation. Questions are often provided the campaign in advance. Even if you try to make informed decisions about candidates and issues it is hard.
There are many eager to tell you for whom you should vote, but each has their own agenda and loyalties. Without being presumptive we would suggest you utilize the age-old Socratic method, asking yourself six questions that will help you focus on the issues, the candidates, and help you decide for whom you will vote. These aren’t easy and might require you to do some work, but that’s not unreasonable. On the contrary, it is our responsibility as citizens of this country.
Six Questions to ask yourself before you vote:
1. What are the most important issues in your local, state, and national election?
2. Which candidate understands and advocates for these issues?
3. Does the candidate offer specific solutions that stand a chance of being enacted?
4. Who is promoting and supporting this candidate and are they individuals and/or groups I admire and respect?
5. Is this a special interest candidate or one I believe will work for the common good?
6. Would you be proud for co-workers, friends, family, and others in your circle to know you voted for this candidate?
Answering these questions will help you cast your ballot with the confidence that you have done your part to make this a better place to live, work and spend our future.
Tom Campbell is the moderator for the public affairs television program “NC Spin” (