As the election season heats up and candidates are vying for your support, I have just one word of advice: Remember your values.
It might seem like a simple message, but it can easily get lost—especially during a time like this. Opinions are flying at you from every direction. TV, radio and print campaign ads have become more commonplace. You might have even received mail-outs from candidates running for local, state, or federal office.
Before donating financially to a candidate, and especially before casting a vote, it is so important that you remember your values. Political campaigns are designed to make you feel good about voting for someone; you will hear all kinds of talking points and promises. Many candidates will appear like they represent your beliefs, but that image could very well be misleading.
That’s why it’s so important to remember your values and vote likewise. If you’re considering a candidate that has held public office before, what is their voting record? Does it line up with what you believe? There’s a good chance that if a candidate votes one way in the past, they will vote similarly in the future.
If you’re considering a candidate who doesn’t have a voting record, have they articulated your values beyond the usual rhetoric? Do they show a deep knowledge of the issues? Remember that many candidates will fail to express what they truly believe in an effort to be more “likable.” This is a consequence of personality-driven politics; it should always be about the issues, but it isn’t. Extra work is required of us to really discover where a candidate stands.
A great resource to find out about candidates is OnTheIssues.org. You can search candidates by state and see where they stand on nearly every issue, from abortion to national security and immigration to gun control. This website would send shivers down dishonest politicians’ spines if more people knew about it, used it, and voted based upon the information. The honest candidates would naturally rise to the top as a result.
I have a filter by which I see candidates—if they don’t make it through that filter, then they aren’t getting my support. With unbiased voter resources, a little common-sense, and most of all, your values, it is possible to vote with a clear conscience. Don’t become a victim of “buyer’s remorse” later on when a politician votes differently than you’d expect. Instead, become an engaged citizen and gather the information you need to make the best voting decision.
And above all else, keep in mind this one simple rule: Remember your values.