How to Vote, Part 1
(A three-part opinion piece on why and how to vote in the upcoming municipal election in Middletown. Full disclosure: I’m a candidate for the Board of Education)
This year, the mayoral candidates from both parties raised more than $120,000 for their campaigns.
We’re seeing the results now. Our mailboxes are stuffed with accusations. The Democrats denounce the incumbent for cronyism (a practice embraced by the Dems for decades), while the Republicans try to smear the challenger because he may have connections to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and President Barack Obama (one sure way to drive progressive Democratic voters, who may have been leaning towards the incumbent, to vote for the challenger).
The Democrats have purchased costly polling research, while the Republicans have paid for radio and TV ads (largely going unwatched in the aftermath of the Halloween blizzard).
Social media has spawned its own ugly fungus — anonymous posts on newsites where claims and counter-claims fly back and forth. Most of these venomous claims are as likely as cheesecloth to hold water, but that hasn’t stopped them from multiplying.
This is not the first Middletown campaign in which mud has been flung, but the variety of mud is closer than ever to the untreated sewage just now being released into the Connecticut River from our malfunctioning treatment facility.
How does one form a reasonable opinion about whom to vote? Here’s my advice:
- Ignore anything that comes from a party, or a candidate. It is necessarily self-serving, only moderately accurate, and not a true reflection of whom the candidate is. Take the glossy brochures from the mailbox and toss them in the trash. Hang up, politely, on calls from candidate headquarters. Switch channels when the ads come on. Most importantly, skip the comments section of the newsites, unless you read them totally for entertainment value.
- While candidate profiles can help, the truth is, not much (see #1). There is one important value in newsites — they have tremendous archival power, and are easily searched. Determine issues important to you, and do a bit of research to find out how your candidate fared on those issues. Who voted for the senior center? Who voted to lower taxes? Who showed up for the impromptu Memorial Day parade? A quick search at the sites will give you more information than you need to form an opinion?
- Confront the candidate yourself. Most of the formal candidate forums have passed, but in these final days of the campaign, you will no doubt have little trouble finding the candidates themselves wandering around town looking for those last few votes. They are most aggressively on the stump in these final campaign days. Maybe one will appear at your door. If not, visit a party headquarters because you’re likely to find a candidate or two hanging around. Arm yourself with a few good questions, and fire away. Judge for yourself if the candidate has what it takes for your vote.
- Ask a trusted friend. There are more than enough wonks to go around. Find out what a likeminded (or different-minded) informed friend thinks of the candidates. Don’t be afraid to admit to your own ignorance. It’s perfectly understandable to be more interested in the activities of your kids, or the plot of the latest Stephen King novel. But don’t use Dancing with the Stars as your excuse.
If you want to know who you should vote for, there are many ways to find out. You’ve only yourself to blame if you experience buyers remorse in a few months.
By the way, if you want to know more about me, check the Middletown Eye. My thoughts have appeared there for the past three years. Read away. No charge.