Hard Candy: An Election Primer

By Cathy Salustri

You know what I’m sick of? Elections. It’s the most annoying time of the year. What bothers me the most – no one is who they seem to be, and while I know that all year, it’s markedly more intense during elections.

The other thing that bothers me more than I like to admit is that I’m not actually allowed to tell you who I think deserves your vote. Now, it’s not that I think my opinion matters – please believe me when I tell you you’re an idiot who lacks critical thinking skills if you do what I say without question – it’s that this time of year the, uh, jerk factor is kind of high, and I see the worst of it. Paper policy prohibits me from telling you what I think about the people running for office, so I have to sit here and stew and write nice columns about cooking or my cats or whatever.

You see, it is now and always has been the position of this paper that we do not endorse a candidate. My editor doesn’t believe it’s a newspaper’s job to tell people how to think. Instead we slog through December 1 through mid-March every year, trying to present the issues objectively, which we never do in the eyes of everyone, because invariably someone who has an agenda is upset that we don’t share it.

What does all this mean for you? Well, quite honestly, it’s just a whole lot of me whining, because trust me, making a living as a writer – even one who is making her living election after election covering issues like “SignGate 2012” and– is a pretty sweet deal. So forget everything I just said. I am lucky beyond measure. I just get frustrated.

However, if there is anything you can take away from this column it’s how you can make voting decisions. I can share with you a few things I find handy when it comes to how to figure out who’s best suited for the thankless job of “elected official.” I hope they help you out, too.

1. Don’t ask yes or no questions. At the last debate, someone asked the candidates if they had attended a car show. A yes or no answer doesn’t tell you anything. Ask why, and don’t stop until you know why. Think “Did you attend the car show?” as compared to “Why did you attend or not attend the car show?”

2. Let them talk. Salesmen will tell you the person who speaks first loses. This works when you’re trying to get a take on somebody, too. Just let the candidate talk, even if you disagree or know they’re wrong. Often they’ll answer questions you didn’t think to ask.

3. Figure out their lie. Everyone lies. I lie. Your mother lies. Every bi-pedal carbon based life form on this planet – and a few we haven’t discovered yet – lies. Get past that and figure out the magnitude of the lie and you’ll be well-served. Is your candidate lying about whether or not they’re a natural blonde or why they really went to jail in Mexico?

4. Look at the company they keep. Look, I know you should judge a person based on their actions, and so do you. But elections ask you to judge a person based on little other than lip service. Is the guy challenging the incumbent going to be any better at balancing the budget? Who knows? I don’t. You don’t. But look at who the candidate calls “friend.” Like attracts like, and if you don’t like the people who endorse a candidate, it’s possible you may not like the candidate, either.

5. You really can judge a book by its cover. Go meet your candidate. Shake their hand. Tell them what bugs you about them and ask them the tough questions. You know that feeling you get in your gut when they answer? Go with it. It’s your first impression and, sadly, I’ve found it’s usually dead-on accurate, whether I want it to be or not.

6. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Rumors are easily proved and disproved, and facts and statistics are easily distorted, but odds are people aren’t making things up entirely. For example: Someone who dislikes me may tell you I lean towards a certain candidate, and there may be a glimmer of truth because yes, I have an opinion on who’s best for the city. But they won’t ever say I base my opinions on something an alien told me, because let’s face it, aliens don’t vote. My point? Don’t believe rumors, but don’t assume they’re totally false. The truth is somewhere in between.

No matter who you think deserves your vote this March 13, please go vote. Local elections are the only real power you have over government. Make your voice heard.

Contact Cathy at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.