As the circus that is election campaigning begins to rear its make-up-covered head here in Richmond, we can anticipate the usual deluge of vague and ambiguous rhetoric and promises, the presentation of carefully orchestrated “town-hall” or “all candidates” meetings, where incumbent and aspiring politicians are shielded from probing, meaningful questions, and where the candidate with the most money ‘wins’ the media and road-sign wars.
None of these strategies does anything to help us gain a better understanding of the values, beliefs, motivations, or priorities that undergird what the candidates’ intentions would be while in public office. If Donald Trump has offered anything positive to the world, it is an opportunity for us to awaken to how important it is to fully assess the backgrounds, inclinations and values of those who seek public office before we vote for them.
We have a duty and responsibility to ourselves, the democratic process, and every other citizen to look beyond (or behind, if you will) the weight and appearance of the marketing and self-promotion strategies and rhetoric offered up by ambitious politicians — to ignore the glitter of the road-signs and media presentations, the smiles and the glad-handing and say to ourselves: “I want to know more about what this candidate really believes; what their values really are and represent; what they have done in their lives that indicates we can trust them; what they have done that would qualify them to implement policies that will affect, sometimes dramatically, other peoples’ lives.”
To not ask these questions is to both abrogate our responsibility and surrender the power we have as voters.
Or, in the end, to paraphrase French historian Alexis de Tocqueville: “we will get the government we deserve.”