Learning how to DRIVE in Election Season

By: Doug Hagin

OK my friends, the races for the GOP and Democratic nominations are up in the air. We could, as of now, end up with any one of eight different presidents. Watching the blogs, the main stream media, the polls, the focus groups, and the bloated talking heads, and listening to talk radio, I have imagined how very tough it might be for young voters to decipher which way to vote.

There are literally a hundred opinions, some even coming from reliable sources, directing us to vote for this candidate, or NOT vote for that candidate. It is quite a challenge to vote the right way, and not be unduly influenced by all of these forces of bloviation and spin.

Therefore, as a sort of public service, I am going to offer some hints to all voters, especially first-timers, undecided voters, and Americans who intend to vote but who do not spend tons of time studying issues, and candidates. I have come up with Doug’s Rules of Intelligent Voting in Elections, or DRIVE and everyone who follows these will benefit from it. Yes, I made sure to do the politically cool thing and insure that a word was formed from the letters of my rules! Take that MADD, and NOW!

Now, I am sure most who go to my site, GatorSense, know whom I am fully endorsing for President, but I will not even mention Fred Thompson’s name during this column. Instead, I will offer my best advice on how to choose your candidate, and let your choice be, well yours, not the media’s choice, or some blogger’s choice, or a talk host’s choice , but YOUR choice!

So, let us begin this crash course in what to do, and what not to do, this political season.

First, understand that almost every source you get information from is biased in one way or another. For instance, if you visit my site understand that I am committed to one particular candidate. It is no different with most other columnists, bloggers, pundits, or talk hosts. Listen to their takes, read their pieces, but verify on your own. Take a little time to use YOUR mind to determine if their endorsement ought to become yours.

Second, ignore much of what the “unbiased” media feeds you. There are many examples of various networks, papers, and blogs painting candidates they do not favor in a negative light. For example, as a Thompson supporter, I have been amazed at how easily a speech or campaign stop can be portrayed in a false light. Do not get suckered into taking one opinion of a candidate and writing them off over that. Likewise, do not jump on a bandwagon based on one or two opinions. This is far too crucial to make snap judgments.

Third, do not get caught up in the hype. Take the media’s coverage of the race so far. One primary does NOT a nominee make, but the media still likes to dramatize every primary, and poll, like it is November already. So far, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Fred Thompson, Barak Obama, John McCain, John Edwards, and Mike Huckabee all have been declared inevitable and dead on arrival, depending on the latest poll, or the four primaries we have had. Relax folks, walk away, and do not buy into the media’s hyperbole. Examine the polls carefully; they can be as misleading and biased as any talking head can. Deciding the nominees will take a bit of time; no matter how badly some want to hit the fast forward button.

Look for substance. This is so very crucial. Sound bites are nice, and can be funny, but we are electing a leader, a president, not a standup comic here my friends. In this age of YouTube, and blogs, and on-demand video, there are numerous opportunities to listen to the candidates on the issues facing America. Listen to what they say if they promise to solve this problem, or fix that problem listen for substance. Do they actually have a plan? Are they just spewing hot air? Visit their websites; see who has plans, and who does not.

Examine those plans. Are they feasible? CAN they be implemented? Is the candidate just saying what they think voters want to hear? Promising is one thing, having a workable plan is quite another. Examine the candidates’ records. Have they changed their positions AFTER announcing their candidacy? Are they consistent? If they have changed, does their record indicate it? Are they just talking the talk, or are they walking the walk too? Remember consistency is crucial. We want someone with principles and a record of standing by those principles.

Next, do not be an identity voter. If you are a Mormon, do not vote for Romney because he too is Mormon. Support him on his record and vision, not on the common religion you both share. Same with Fred Thompson do not vote for him based on his accent. Sure, we Southerners love that sweet Southern accent, but examine Thompson’s record and stance on issues, THEN decide if he is your guy. Rudy Giuliani might get your vote, but vote on issues, not because he was mayor of New York, and you are from New York. Apply this rule to all the candidates. Vote issues, not gender, support principles, not skin color.

There you are my friends, the very best advice I can give. I have used this process ever since I voted for Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter in 1976. OK, I was only 11, but I did help Ford carry Mrs. Donahue’s 7th grade class so there! Seriously, though, this is too important to vote on hunches or media spin. We owe this great nation our best effort to elect the best to the highest office. We must not settle for less in our candidates, or, my friends, from ourselves.

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