Participation is essential to democracy
As the state mid-term elections draw closer and closer, politics season seems to engulf everything around us, like a cloud of fallen leaves engulfs a backyard.
Across the state and within each town and city, candidates are vying for positions from their local town and city councils and school committees, to state representatives and senator spots and all the way up to the top executive level of governor. While they all play different roles, each elected position makes up a piece of the legislative puzzle that dictates how we operate as a state.
Although Rhode Island is overwhelmingly Democratic in its representation, this does not mean that there are no conservative voices among those in elected positions, and there are certainly plenty of such voices in the populace that are passionate about issues that are perhaps under-represented in the legislature.
While there is no shortage of negativity that is created from them, unfortunately, disagreement and conflict between candidates are vital components to a healthy democracy. Conflicting ideas hold us accountable to our opinions and world views and force us to defend our firmly-held beliefs with facts and evidence, rather than simple emotional pleas or logical fallacies.
Candidate forums and debates force those running for office to face the people they will be working with in their political careers – the populace and the press. They provide an opportunity for candidates to express their reasons for running and what they hope to accomplish, and how.
Going further, this is why debates and candidate forums are critical, as they enable the public to make an informed decision about who they vote for by revealing when candidates have actually taken time to become informed on the issues or if they’re simply pandering to a certain audience and lack substance behind their opinions.
Debates also provide valuable insight into the mannerisms, attitudes and temperament of candidates. If someone is easily flummoxed and flares a temper when asked a direct question they’d rather not answer, it sheds light into how they will likely react to such questions if they were to win the seat they’re running for. Likewise, if someone can calmly deconstruct a question and provide a balanced, thoughtful response, they have either done excellent preparatory work or are generally calm and collected in pressure situations – and either of those realities can shed significant light on a candidate.
The public must play a role in democracy in order for it to function. It is not the role of the populace to simply vote for a political party that they consider themselves aligned with and then wait two years to see what happened before repeating the process. Democracy is a constant work in progress, and requires attention to be paid to promises made by candidates versus actions taken as elected officials.
So tune into debates that occur, regardless of the level of politics. Send questions to news outlets that accept them – we have a couple coming up in this publication group that are seeking input right now – and learn about who candidates are and what they stand for.
You will find the TV airdates of the mayoral debate to be held this Thursday on today’s front page. The six candidates running for the three school districts seats are invited to participate in a forum hosted by the Warwick Beacon on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Pilgrim High School.
It is easy to become cynical and apathetic towards the political process, especially if you wind up supporting candidates who don’t emerge successful or feel disillusioned with how things are managed in your local community. However, to give up on the democratic process is to give up on democracy itself, and choosing not to participate means you are then no longer entitled to voice grievances with how that system operates.