A Little Accountability Please

August 29, 2011

Isn’t it obvious that candidates who are elected should be held accountable to the positions that they take during their campaign? While most of us would agree that this is important, it is disappointing how infrequently it actually happens. Our political culture has become one in which many politicians will say and do whatever they think will get them elected and after they are elected, they seem to care less about everything they promised during the campaign.

Telling you what you want to hear

When running for office, one of the first things many candidates are told they should do is spend $15,000 – $30,000 on a poll to find out what concerns people have and what positions the public favors. Candidates are then encouraged to use this information to create issues and talking points for their campaign. In other words, candidates are invited to simply tell people what they want to hear. Many candidates are also advised to avoid true dialogue and to answer any question by simply spouting talking points rather than giving an answer to the question that was asked. Even mundane or completely unrelated questions often get a talking point response. If you ask a candidate how their summer has been, they might say they have been using their summer to think about how to “bring down our debt and create jobs”. This is a pure talking point response. Another classic technique to dodge questions is to say, “I think what people really care about is [fill in a talking point here]”. Watch carefully and you’ll see politicians do this all the time, especially if the question is about a problem with their personal record as an elected official or their past behavior.

Breaking the cycle of abuse

Many candidates are willing to say virtually anything during their campaign. Candidates get away answering any questions by spouting talking points as if they were a pre-programmed Chatty Kathy doll. Just pull their string and you can hear the same crap over and over. We deserve more than robotic puppets who recite what they think people want to hear. If politicians can completely ignore their campaign promises while in office then simply make new promises again during the next campaign cycle and get re-elected, they have no motivation to change their behavior. It is sickening that our so-called “leaders” are willing to resort to these disingenuous tactics.

While these trends are terrible because they prevent true progress and representation for the people of our nation, the bottom line is that it will continue until we as the voters put our foot down and refuse to accept it. Candidates only behave in this way because it continues to work. If no one ever holds their feet to the fire and confronts them with the fact that they never acted on their campaign promises, we will continue to get the same pattern of empty promises from most politicians. Many Americans are concerned with our political leadership. However, if we want the very best leadership, we must hold politicians accountable and refuse to accept programmed talking points as answers to serious questions.

Avoiding traps and snap judgments

We need leaders with integrity who want to represent the best interests of the people. How can we find these leaders? Use our ears and our brains, then vote accordingly. Don’t assume that a candidate has all your best interests at heart just because you agree with what they say about one issue. Remember, they may just be saying what a poll tells them people favor. Moreover, far too many people cling to political party affiliations. Don’t fall into that trap. Some politicians are willing to change parties like they are changing a shirt if it serves their purposes and makes it more likely they will get elected.

Voter education and responsibility is the key

Are you happy with the status quo? If not, take your responsibility as a voter seriously. Look beyond political affiliation and listen to what each candidate says. Be skeptical! Healthy skepticism is your best friend. Remember that many candidates are simply telling you what their poll says you want to hear. Ask yourself if they are willing to answer questions and not just regurgitate talking points. Ask yourself who you think truly wants to be a public servant and is dedicated to helping to solve problems and move us forward. Cast your vote based on who you feel will be a leader with integrity. Then, after the election, pay attention to what they actually do. How do they vote on important issues? What legislation are they proposing? Are they following through with what they promised? If they drop the ball, do not vote for them again. That’s accountability.