By Edith Morgan
It’s election season again – isn’t it always nowadays? And so I hear once again the inevitable comment from friends who are less than engaged with the process: “They’re all crooks”. a comment usually used to excuse the speaker from having to vote (though some of these friends actually DO keep up with some media).
Looking for honest men (and now women too) is not a new preoccupation: Remember Diogenes, who somewhere around 350 to 400 B.C. wandered the streets of Athens, Greece, in broad daylight with a lantern, seeking an honest man? Diogenes of Sinope ( now in Turkey) was one of the founders of the philosophy of Cynicism, which is alive and well even today. But I suspect that while there are probably more and greater opportunities for dishonesty available today, the percentage of really dishonest politicians is no greater or less than it was 25 centuries go. And today we have far more access to information about everyone that was available in the past.
I have been active in politics for much of my adult life, and still participate now that I am in my eighties, So I think I can legitimately weigh in on the question of honesty among those we elect. I do not expect sainthood in those who self-select to run for political office, so I try to make judgments as to what to expect based on a lot of information, in many different venues: there are the usual forums, debates, interviews, profiles published in the newspapers ,financial statements about contributions published in the papers, comments from friends and others, and often at least one encounter with the candidate, at local meeting places or even at my door. Putting all this information together I can make a fairly good assessment about the person, and vote intelligently.
And after the vote, most of go to sleep and let politics take its course… and there is the problem: no one can do us any harm (or any good, for that matter), before the election. But once we hand over power to someone we elect to represent us, then is the time to watch and listen carefully. And there are many opportunities to be sure they do what we expect, provided that a majority of our fellow-citizens agree.
We do not have to become obsessed with every move they make, but it is usually enough that they know we are paying attention, and when something comes up about which we feel strongly we can come out of the woodwork and let them know- with phone calls, e-mails, petitions, and in local elections, appearing at their regular open meetings and speaking up, preferably with a handful of our neighbors and supporters. You would be surprised how much our local councilors and school committee members are affected by this kind of show of interest, since most of the time, they meet before nearly empty chambers.
Every year, we have a primary (if enough people run) and our usual “first-Tuesday-of- November” election. This year, we have local elections then. And we also have a special election to replace Senator Kerry, with a primary on April 30th, and the final choice on July 25th.
Every profession has its crooks, or its members who succumb to the lure of money and power – but we have a unique chance to keep down the numbers by being involved…..and changing the rules if there is too much money and influence in the game.