The 2016 presidential election race has already begun and the 2015 municipal election season is fast approaching in my neighborhood. I have 3 sets of 5 questions I seek answers to when looking at candidates. These are not likely ones that will come up in a debate so I have to dig a little to answer them.
A Question of Character
When we elect someone to public office we are entrusting them to make decisions on our behalf using information to which we don't have time to review and perhaps have access. That being the case I’m more interested in the quality of their character than a specific policy position that may change as an office holder gets access to additional information.
- Tell me about circumstances where you chose to do what you thought was right but which had the possibility of negative personal consequences.
- Can you site examples where you have quietly served others without regard to recognition?
- Tell me about a mistake you made and how you went about rectifying it.
- What do you do to keep yourself morally grounded?
- What is the source of your values?
Regardless of party or positions of the moment on the issues of the day if a candidate is not a person of character should they be entrusted with the power that comes with any political office? Depending on the character of the person, positions that were held during the campaign may only be those that were needed to get elected.
Role of Government
A candidates view on the role of government is a.good indicator of the kind of policies that they will support. My questions include the following:
- Where do our basic rights come from (and what are they)?
- What is the role of government relative to those rights?
- Is the Constitution a “living document”?
- Is it relevant today?
- How do we best interpret its meaning?
Although candidates may be of strong moral character if their view of the role government of is not aligned with yours then you may not be happy with outcome should they be elected. The Proper Role of Government written by Ezra Taft Benson, former Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower, is an excellent treatise on the role of government and the origin of rights.
Lastly, I look for answers to questions that identify their qualifications (or lack thereof) for the office in question. For example, for an executive position such as mayor, governor or president, questions I would ask might include:
- What positions of leadership have you held (government, industry or charitable organizations).
- Tell me about the people you picked to help support you in that role?
- What criteria did you use in selecting them?
- What challenges was your group able to overcome and how did you contribute to the group's success?
- Tell me what you think the job description is of the position for which you are running and prioritize the associated responsibilities.
Unqualified office holders often rely on behind the scene individuals to direct them; so we really don't know what we are getting. Their inability to be an effective leader allows the bureaucracy to steer the ship. By nature the bureaucracy seeks to grow. Employees want growth opportunities and in the case of a bureaucracy this means increased cost to taxpayers, more regulations, and less freedom for all. It takes a strong leader to keep that tendency in check.
On the other hand, a well qualified individual whose views on the role of government is not in sync with yours' could be very effective at implementing policies and programs that you would oppose.
Unfortunately, in today's world we don't take the time required to really get to know the candidates that we support. We rely on sound bites and images to influence us more than depth of character, core philosophies, or qualifications. We evaluate candidates based on specific issues that benefit us rather than look at what they will do for the community, state or country as a whole. We elect those who tell us what we want to hear but end usually up doing what is best for them. Thus we end up with representatives who serve their interests not ours.
We can do better! With all the information available to us through a myriad of resources we are only constrained by the amount of time we chose to put into the process of selecting our representatives.