It’s never too early for voters to get engaged

June 5, 2023 5:45 am

(Photo by JimVallee/iStock Images)

 As cities, states and our nation face many political, economic and social challenges, who we vote for in upcoming elections carries monumental importance.

All we need to do is to look at the state of things to know that we need to change the direction and the unraveling trajectory we are on.

Many state legislatures are in recess. But their accomplishments, or lack thereof, are still fresh in our minds.

Furthermore, Congress choosing to be embroiled in a last-minute wrangling to avert a financial crisis here at home and worldwide may have been high drama, but it was completely unnecessary.

No doubt your city, or other local governmental entity, also has its share of challenges and problems exacerbated by those who have utter disregard for what is in the best public interest.

At every level there is much to evaluate as you decide who you will choose to fill elective offices and make decisions on your behalf.

Choosing wisely is paramount.

Most elections are still a year away. Yet there are many opportunities and ways to become engaged early in the electoral process to help us make better choices.

But many of us want to get engaged only when we have to, perhaps a few weeks or days before we have to go to the polls and cast a vote.

Too often, we haven’t paid much attention to what has been said or done by candidates leading up to the time they want you to put your political, economic and social quality of life in their hands.

Shouldn’t we look into their backgrounds to find out as much as we can about who they are? What do they truly stand for?

Many candidates are very good at hiding their true colors, or being evasive on how they truly feel about issues until after they are elected.

But if we pay close enough attention — and become more engaged — we can figure it out.

If they have held elective office before, then they have a record — good, bad, or ineffective. They have shown you who they are and what their agenda is.

Believe them.

All elections are important at every level of our governmental system.

But the one that will consume most Americans, and which is already dominating the political conversation and media attention is the 2024 presidential election.

While President Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee, many candidates are seeking to become the Republican nominee, including former President Donald Trump.

Townhall meetings with the aspiring Republican candidates are already taking place and being broadcast broadly. The first Republican primary debate is scheduled to occur in August.

The evaluation process has begun. Will you be paying attention?

The schedules for the 2024 primary elections have already been determined.

If you wait until November of next year, many irreversible decisions will have already been made.

The overriding question: Who will be most qualified to lead this very divided nation — on many fronts — with all of its serious, and what could be defining, challenges?

What qualifications will you look for in the candidates who will be vying for your support, and ultimately your vote?

A few very important qualifications come to mind.

First and foremost, the president should know this country’s history, the role, structure, and function of our form of government. The president should be the role model when it comes to respecting and upholding the Constitution and the rule of law.

Which candidate consistently demonstrates a command of the major issues, challenges and policy decisions facing the country in sufficient enough detail to distinguish between good advice and bad?

Who can best provide leadership and direction, and has the communication, negotiation, and consensus-building skills to achieve meaningful outcomes?

For such an important position, who we elect must have the right leadership experience. He or she must be able to select the right cabinet or management team to grapple with some of the most complex issues facing our time within our borders and globally.

What is their vision for the country? Is it realistic and achievable?

The president must be both inclusive and compassionate to balance the needs of the rich and the poor, the young and the elderly, the needs of minorities with those of the majority, the privileged and the disenfranchised.

The president must perform the ultimate balancing act, making decisions based upon what is good for America and its citizens.

By the time we cast our vote if we have not determined which candidate has strong integrity, high moral standards, is a unifier and not a divider, then shame on us.

These are the minimum qualifications to be president of United States.

Who will best meet them?

But, electing a president is only the beginning.

There will be many elections for various offices occurring in 2023. There will be even more occurring in 2024, including all 435 U.S. Congressional seats and some of the Senatorial seats.

Many of the qualifications required to become president also apply to all candidates seeking to hold public office along with other specific ones unique to a particular branch of government.

In addition to character and qualifications, what issues are most important to you, your family, and your community? Where do the candidates stand on these issues? What will they do to address them? How will they vote when given choices?

All elections are important.

All elections have consequences that directly impact the quality of our lives both physically and psychologically. We cannot underestimate the impact that perpetual virulent political discord, instability and uncertainty have on our collective psyche and sense of peace and hopefulness for the future.

Who will you choose to lead?

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.