By Cliff Ennico
Here it comes — another contentious election season.
At the top of the ticket is a choice between two presidential candidates who don’t exactly inspire people or represent the best America can produce (hmmm, call it deja vu; I seem to recall we’’ve been in this situation before).
At the bottom of the ticket are a whole bunch of people you don’t know anything about running for state and local office.
And in between, millions, if not billions, of dollars are being spent on political ads and other media trying to get you to change your mind, which is probably already made up.
No question, there’s got to be a better way to do this.
But at the end of the day, you do have to make a decision between now and Nov. 3 about who you are going to vote for.
Keeping in mind this is a column about small business, not politics, I have some ideas about that. In fact, if you keep reading, I will tell you who I plan to vote for this year.
But first, a general observation: People have a nasty tendency to vote against, rather than for, when they are in the voting booth. An elected official told me many years ago how this works, and I will never forget his words: “Cliff, let’s say we meet on a street corner and we discuss 10 topics. They can be about anything — politics, sports, the weather. We agree on nine of these topics but disagree — sharply — on the 10th. We part company and don’t see each other for a while. A year from now, we see each other walking down the street. Which of those 10 topics are we going to remember?”
His point was that it doesn’t matter how much you agree with a candidate’s views; if there’s even one point of significant disagreement, that’s all you are likely to remember when you’re actually voting.
I realize that sounds cynical, but it’s just human nature. If you are presented with two names side by side on a ballot and you know nothing about one but you really hate the other, you will probably vote for “the devil you don’t know,” even if that person could turn out to be a worse leader than the candidate you hated.
Politics is not a popularity contest once you graduate high school. One of the worst reasons I can think of for voting for or against candidates is whether or not you like them as a human being or whether they resonate with you emotionally. That’s how a lot of dictators get elected.
I suspect many of my readers have already made up their mind on how they will vote. But assuming your mind is at least partially open, I ask you to consider the following before you pull the lever:
Know What Matters. Not all issues are of equal importance to all voters. If you are running a small-town restaurant, you probably shouldn’t care about a candidate’s views on the Middle East (unless, of course, you have family or key suppliers there). You are probably much more concerned about his or her views on taxes, getting past COVID-19 and the employee-versus-independent contractor debate.
In looking at candidates, you should focus on the issues that will impact you, your family and your business most, whatever they are.
Focus on the Bottom of the Ticket. Most people’s lives are not impacted on a day-to-day basis by what the president or the Senate does. They are much more impacted by the decisions state and (especially) local officials make. And you know what? These people often look a lot different than the top of the ticket. The Republicans don’t look anything like President Donald Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; the Democrats don’t look anything like Democratic nominee Joe Biden or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
They are much more likely to resemble you if you take the time to look at them closely. These are your neighbors, and they share your everyday concerns. Heck, they may actually respond to your emails or texts if you ask them questions about where they stand.
Remember, the more local the office, the smaller the voter pool and the more your vote will actually make a difference.
Do Your Homework. There really is no excuse for not knowing where a candidate stands — and what he or she has done — on the issues that matter most to you. Democracy requires a certain amount of work on your part. Check your local newspaper (or its online version, which you should subscribe to anyway) for interviews with local candidates and thorough coverage of their appearances and debates. If you can’t find the answers online or in your local news media, contact the candidates (or their staffers) directly and ask them.
So, who am I voting for?
I am voting for the candidates who come closest to sharing my views on the issues that are most likely to benefit me, my law practice, this column and the small business/entrepreneurial/self-employed communities generally — because those are the people and things I care about most.
And since I haven’t yet figured out who those candidates are, I have a lot of work to do between now and November.
Cliff Ennico (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series “Money Hunt.”
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