Pilot editorial writer Shawn Day had a blistering column in today’s paper about the candidates that are being interviewed for the paper’s endorsements.
Several House candidates, when asked their views on certain issues, have told me and other members of The Pilot’s Editorial Board that they lacked information to offer an informed opinion.
These aren’t obscure matters. We’re talking about whether they would’ve approved the transportation proposal that raised taxes this year. Whether to lift the ban on mining uranium. Whether lawmakers should approve terms of public-private transportation projects before they’re signed. The personhood bill.
But party labels and platitudes too often substitute for the kind of substantive qualifications and knowledge in short supply, both on the campaign trail and in Richmond.
I think what we are seeing here is the clear separation between politics and policy. The former, around which campaigns are built, have come to dominate the conversation. The latter seems an afterthought , only something to be considered when sitting in front of the editorial board. Remember this?
Even the most concerned voters – the ones who take the time to attend candidate forums and debates – are rarely exposed to real policy positions and issues. The very nature of candidate forums and debates – whereby the candidate is given two minutes to respond to what is often a question that is outside of the purview of the office the candidate is seeking – tends to reinforce the idea that talking points are all that are necessary. Candidate websites are not help: most just parrot the same bullet points.
There is no “there” there.
How in the heck are the voters supposed to a) learn about policy and b) determine where the candidate stands on said policy?
We can’t. So we rely on the same shallow BS of talking points – or just party ID – to make a decision.
Two things I’d like to see:
- No more 2-minute answers. Set up forums and debates so that they cover less ground and allow more time – maybe 5-7 minutes – for each candidate to answer substantive policy questions that affect the office being sought. For example, forum moderators need to stop asking federal questions of candidates seeking state office. If the moderator doesn’t know the difference, then get another moderator. Further, moderators have to be more than time-keepers. Cut off candidates that aren’t answering the question that was asked.
- Make ed board interviews public. If every candidate went into an ed board meeting knowing the public was going to see them answer tough questions, you can bet they would come in prepared. And if every ed board knew it was going to be seen, they wouldn’t ask softball questions.
We can’t expect an informed electorate if no one steps up to the plate.