Robert Ehlert: Don't be swayed by political endorsements

rehlert@idahostatesman.comMarch 25, 2014 

Robert Ehlert


If we woke up tomorrow and political organizations had ceased supplying us self-serving endorsements and candidate ratings, I would not be too upset. Fact is, I might do the Pharrell Williams "Happy" dance.

It might seem crazy what I'm about to say, but imagine a political process devoid of ratings and endorsements from outside organizations that nanny-hover all over our elections — only to disappear after the results.

Who needs these professional influencers who behave like the credit-score bureaus of politics?

What would happen if Idaho ignored them during the May 20 primary and continuing on to the Nov. 4 general election? What if we placed all the endorsements, ratings and rants in the junk drawer and relied only on personal research, perception and actual discussions and communications with candidates to find out what they are going to do for Idaho?

OK, that's pretty blue sky. But I can dream.

Suppose we were not swayed by 80, 90 or 100 percent ratings — what does that even mean? — from the National Rifle Association, the American Conservative Union, the Champion of Small Business folks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, the Madison Project, Common Cause, Sierra Club, the Flat Earth Society, the Environmental Alliance for Whatever, the Club for Growth and/or the Hair Club for Men.

Some of these ratings and endorsements are easier to land than an online degree in Downloaded Divinity. You an incumbent? You got it! In other cases, the very accomplishment of filtering every vote or decision through the platitudes of Planned Parenthood or the barrel of the Second Amendment is mystifying if not terrifying.

If, we are told, that somewhere between the crosshairs of Ducks Unlimited and Duck Dynasty there is truth, I advise you to quack like a wolf and run as quickly as possible in the other direction.

Rather than wait for these organizations to tell us how red-blooded, blue-collared or green-guided all these candidates are, why don't we engage in our own research and come to our own conclusions? Or, dare I say, have we become complacent? Lazy?

Instead of foraging for our own facts, have we become so reliant on the political rating process that we can no longer think for ourselves?

Has the default of discernment become the snail-mail and email "intelligence" we allow and receive in lieu of asking, and thinking, and then executing an enlightened vote?

The Letters to the Editor here at the Statesman may not always present the full spectrum of statewide thought, but I am thankful every day for those engaged enough to participate in the conversation.

I fear for those who will take political ratings scores — add them up like a series of coaches' polls in college sports — and then divide by the denominator of apathy resulting in the Bowl Championship Series of political winners.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who is running again for his 2nd District seat, got the NRA endorsement — not Bryan Smith, the Idaho Falls attorney who is challenging him in the primary. Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who is challenging Gov. Butch Otter for governor, has touted his "100 percent rating" with the NRA.

The question isn't their NRA rating, is it? The question is, how will they advance the cause of Idaho?

By the same token, I've grown tired of people who take pledges to Grover Norquist or somebody else that they will never raise taxes, or never do this or that.

How about our candidates make pledges to constituents?

Between now and the primary, I'll be looking for people who seek the top ratings from Idaho and who won't let re-election stand in the way of doing the right thing.

There is a way we'll be able to tell: We'll hear it from them and not through some third party rating service.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman's editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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