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Tammy Messina: Don't rely on sound bites

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: May 20, 2010 5:48 p.m.
Updated: May 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

I suspect the early days of our nation's elections were much different than they are today. TV and radio was extremely limited.

Printed news was significantly delayed and also probably somewhat limited.

We were not a nation influenced by what we saw on TV. Nor did we equate intellect and capable skill sets with who was most entertaining or charismatic. But to me, that seems to be what we often do now.

TV and entertainment have become such a part of our lives that the lines seem to blur between reality and entertainment. We look at who has the best commercials and are swayed by the information provided in sound bites.

But evaluating political candidates should not be done in the same way we decide what TV show we're going to watch.

The people we elect to public office will be making serious decisions affecting generations after us. We need to know that they are qualified for the office and have our best interests at heart.

The question is: how do we get that information? It's going to take some work.

We, as voters, have a responsibility to find out all we can about the candidates. We must validate the sources providing the information. Many "news" sources are actually "editorials," which means they contain the writer's opinions, not necessarily hard facts. Getting to the facts can be a trying prospect.

Candidate debates and forums are critical. Here you can hear the candidate speak about the issues.

Most won't like what I'm about to say, but you need to listen to more than just one debate. Often candidates will change their positions on a subject from one debate to the next. Just as important is listening to how they answer questions. (Or did they answer the question at all?) You want them to answer candidly, but often the answers will sound scripted and you'll get a "déjà vu" feeling because you heard the same wording in a previous debate or commercial. Fortunately, with the Internet, podcasts and YouTube, you can listen to debates online at your convenience.

Some people rely on candidate endorsements. If someone you trust who has similar values to your values is endorsing a candidate, then that lends credibility to the candidate. Whenever possible, look to people whom you know personally and who know the candidate personally.

Ultimately, it will come down to whom you believe and whom you feel you can trust based on your own personal research.

The Republican primary elections are coming on June 8. You should have already received your ballot information by mail.

I often hear people say, "Well, I'll just see who wins the primary and vote in the general election." Why wouldn't you want your voice heard in the primary election? The primaries are how we make sure the best candidate for the job is selected to run in the general election in November. Don't abdicate your vote. Stand up and be counted.

There are at least eight important races you should be aware of. You can view your sample ballot online at www.lavote.net/LOCATOR/Default.cfm.

Of particular importance are the races for governor and for U.S. Senate. If you've missed the debates that have been happening, here are links to a few of them:

Governor: www.c-span.org/Watch/Media/2010/05/02/HP/R/32402/IGN+2010+Debates+on+CSPAN.aspx and www.ustream.tv/recorded/5483993.

U.S. Senate: abclocal.go.com/kabc/video?id=7431744, abclocal.go.com/kabc/video?id=7431748 and abclocal.go.com/kabc/video?id=7431749.

Tammy Messina is a resident of Santa Clarita, a local business owner and a member of the Republican Party. She can be reached at tmessina@wildcat.la. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right Here, Right Now" appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.

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