Monday, November 1, 2010


Five questions I ask about every candidate every election

Everybody has different ways of approaching their vote in the polling place. Some are predictable party-line voters.  Some are one-issue voters.  Some think of short-term, highly-charged issues; others look more toward long-range challenges.  Some are emotional voters; others are more cool-headed.

What kind of voter am I?

Here are five considerations that, more than anything else, impact my voting:

1. How do they regard the poor?  What candidates, platforms and/or parties have a clear intention or a proven record of being sensitive and responsive to the crushing economic and social realities of poor children and families in our communities?  Simply put, Biblically, the first principle of community is compassion and justice for the poor.

2. How do they deal with the growing divide between the rich and middle class?  What candidates, platforms and/or parties express understanding and dare to make critical responses regarding the increasingly widening gap between the very rich (individuals and corporations) and the middle class and poor?  To me, nothing rips at the fabric of American democracy or breeds cynicism as much as this. And, yes, I think it critical to address this carefully and pointedly.

3. How do they regard the city?  What candidates will make a constructive investment in metropolitan economic vitality and a diverse, healthy urban life? I want to know if a candidate understands and values cities and I want to know to what extent they factor metropolitan vitality in their priorities and decisions.

4. Will they represent all and serve the whole?  What candidates frame issues more in terms of what is best for all over what is framed by interest groups, what is needed for a vulnerable many over what will satisfy campaign contributors and self-interested constituencies?  I want to know who really cares about the health of the whole and values those who cannot speak for themselves amid the overly-moneyed voices.

5. Do they have integrity and will they use it bridge divides?  What candidates have demonstrated integrity and breadth, along with enough moxie and charisma that I can imagine them bringing people together instead of primarily promoting their ideology?  First, show me you have genuine sincerity and sound ethics.  And show me you think well, think through, think of others.  Then, show me you are savvy enough to bridge some divides and use whatever influence you are given to represent all instead of implementing ideologically-spawned policies.

That's about it.  Given these questions, I typically have slim pickings at the polls. Few of the candidates and issues I vote for often prevail.  But, I'm satisfied that these questions are principled, coming from deeply-held convictions.

I can unpack these voting considerations on down the road.  But maybe my brief statement will encourage you to begin to identify the guiding principles that determine how you vote and for whom you vote.  If you take the time to do that, I'd be interested in your findings.

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