The fallacies of endorsements

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In recent days, I’ve looked at many congressional races around the country. Using my “student-of-politics” proclivities and some very good research, I’m going to give you my list of picks so you’ll know who’s who – how they stack up. I’m going to “name names” so you’ll know whom you should support.

Wait? What’s that? You don’t care who I like? You don’t want to know which ones I’m endorsing for Congress? What? Why?

Actually, that would be my response if you – or anyone – told me a list of candidate selections. It wouldn’t make a damned bit of difference.

And therein is my problem with endorsements. Who someone else – anyone else – ANYONE else is supporting is just not relevant to my ballot. Oh, we might eventually vote for the same candidate. Maybe more than one. But we do so individually. Not because of anyone else backing ol’ so-and-so.

There was a time endorsements were somewhat important. Used to be Democrats put a lot of stock in labor union picks. If the president of Amalgamated Widget Makers told members which candidate to support, that’s pretty much how everybody went. Major corporations often got behind one name and word went out to various branches of the business. “Smith’s the guy” and everyone was expected to mark “Smith” at the polls.

Union, corporate, workplace endorsements don’t carry the weight they used to. Nor should they. But all keep trying. Even some “churches.”

Newspapers endorse a lot – claiming they’re giving you the benefit of hours and hours spent in face-to-face extended interviews and “Candidate Glutz is our pick for county treasurer.” I’d rather they change current employment practices and hire someone who can actually write accurately and tightly – then publish well-written summaries of what that extensive interviewing showed about the office-seeker. Things the paid advertising didn’t show. Skip the endorsement. Factual summaries will do just fine, thank you very much. Again, well-written, of course. I’ll do the deciding.

The “endorsement” I hate most is the one that comes from one politician of another. The endorser may be boosting a friend or someone he works with. But often it’s a sham. Sometimes the two are even strangers to each other.
Politicians endorsing other candidates they’ve never even met has always been a vote killer for me. Party politics at it’s finest. Or worst. If you think such “blind” party line politics has been helpful for us in recent years, you haven’t been paying attention.
Then, take Chris Christie’s trip to New Hampshire awhile back to loudly announce his support for political transient, Scott Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Very firm words. Unqualified Christie backing. Yet, when immigrant Brown was “Senator Brown from Massachusetts,” Christie locked horns with him repeatedly and – in true Christie style – did so at the top of his lungs. Now it’s all better? Yeah, sure.

Political endorsements are almost always about getting an advantage or keeping the advantage. Chairman Christie of the Republican Governor’s Association, for example, is interested only in getting more Republicans in statehouses. Experience or qualifications be damned. Hand him a piece of paper with the name of your local Republican wannabe governor and Christie will make you think they grew up together. Buddies for life.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se. It’s just a job Christie and others are doing. But you need to know that because if you believe the hollow, verbal garbage and let the endorsement make your voting decision for you, then there’s a lot wrong.

And, of course, there’s the double-edged sword of endorsements. May look good to the one receiving the endorsement. Or, it may be a message to voters who don’t know the candidate but know they don’t like one or more of those doing the endorsing. Associated guilt, as it were.

The national political mess we’re in has been caused by a lot of things. But three factors stick out for me. First, too many voters don’t know one candidate from another and – like picking the “pretty brown horse” at the track – they cast a vote for the wrong reason. Second, too many of us don’t do our homework to find out which are the smart rabbits and which shouldn’t be allow to handle sharp objects.

And, third, many are “turned off” to politics – all politics – and either don’t vote or don’t make informed choices. So they wind up cancelling out wise decisions by more informed voters. And we wind up with a Louie Gohmert when we’d be better off with Gomer Pyle.

Each informed vote – honestly cast – does make a difference. That’s just a fact. Each vote. Every vote. But especially the vote that’s the result of a little research – a little extra effort – a little independent thought. The information is more easily accessible now than ever. Getting it is not hard.

What’s hard is living with the results of a bad vote – an uninformed vote – or a vote that wasn’t cast. Or falling for an endorsement of someone you don’t know BY someone you don’t know.

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