In a few days, all the craziness will be over with the elections. Until then, the smart voter still has work to do. When I taught 7th graders, we used political ads to see the kinds of sneaky tactics used to drag in votes. I won’t teach the entire lesson here, but I will pose a few questions for you to consider before you cast your vote, questions my students were asked to use to evaluate the trustworthiness and capabilities of a candidate.
- Does the candidate have the knowledge and skills to do the job, or does he/she just have a long list of unrelated accomplishments? For example, what does belonging to a civic club or building a playground really have to do with running a school or a city?
- What is the candidate’s motive for running for office? Does he/she see problems and want to help find a way to fix them, or is it all about the person simply getting his/her name on a law, a building, or a project?
- Is the candidate a logical thinker who has the ability to solve problems? Often simply by listening to a candidate respond to a question posed spur of the moment or reading a letter to the editor they’ve submitted to a local newspaper, it becomes apparent if the person is smart enough to read, listen, and research a problem at hand.
- Does the candidate’s letter or speech simply spew glittering generalities to make him/her look good? When this happens, the voter needs to look very closely and do a little digging. Often these kinds of candidates like to take credit for every project even if other people really did most or all of the work. That’s not only a sign of laziness, it is a sign of a liar.
- Does the candidate have a history of positive life experiences that reveal good character? With the national races we’ve seen in last few years, it sometimes seems that good character is not even a pre-requisite for running. At the local level, the voter may actually know how a person has behaved in his/her public and private life. Leopards rarely change their spots. If the person is mean, underhanded, deceitful, or self-centered before the election, that probably won’t change after he/she is elected.
- Does the candidate care more about getting credit and making a name for himself/herself, or is the candidate genuinely concerned about whom he/she serves? If it appears the candidate has taken a huge dose of Vitamin I (“I did this” and “I did that” and “Look what I did”), then what that person wants will usually be much more important than what the people need.
My students were able to spot a sneak or a snake a mile away. They also agreed that a person who is of good character, is smart, can solve problems, works hard, cares not about who gets credit for a project, seeks to do no harm, and considers the effects of his/her decisions before voting is the best person for the job. Those kids are voters now, and I hope they remember what they learned so long ago as they vote in this election.
NOTE: The Paper Trail News has invited all candidates to submit letters. Hopefully, the readers will look carefully at what the candidates say – and don’t say. Are they all about themselves and their own needs or about our needs? Vote carefully, my friends.
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Flour Bluff, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer a glimpse into the past and present of the little community of Flour Bluff. She wrote for The Flour Bluff Messenger, wrote and edited for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper that existed from December 2017 to April 2020, served as copy editor on three books, and continues to tutor students of all ages in the lively art of writing.