The social context of the last several years has made politics an almost taboo discussion around family dinner tables, parties, and social or professional events. As we enter a political season of negative ads, rallies, omnipresent signs, and a plethora of accusations slung from all fronts, it seems like, collectively, we might be able to agree on one thing: we are sick of the rhetoric and vitriol before it’s even gotten started. 

Perhaps we learned in 2016 that discussing politics in social settings (or even with loved ones) can lead to intense reactions and lasting consequences. Let’s be honest – we’ve probably all eliminated a few overly opinionated friends from our social media universe, and we would rather talk about almost anything than a local or (gasp) presidential election. Some might argue that we’ve become immune to accusations of corruption and that we expect our politicians to stoop to the lowest common denominator. As we consider the next mayor of Scranton, state representatives, and begin to prepare for the 2020 presidential election, isn’t now the time to demand more – not just of our candidates, but also of ourselves? Isn’t it time to expect the same level of critical thought and discerning judgment that we expect of our students?

Deeply reflective questions, honest analysis, objective fact checking, and earnest dialogues are imperatives for responsible citizens. Too often, we are led by candidates, political parties, the media, or social pressure to oversimplify and identify with the “us” instead of the “them”. We often define our candidates in opposition to the others in the race instead of what they stand for.

Regardless of our political leanings or personal beliefs, now is a critical moment for responsible voices to take the time and energy to engage in meaningful, educated, thoughtful ways. Depending upon the office, we have weeks, months, or more to make the complex, multidimensional choice about casting our votes. As much as voting is a privilege, so too is living in a society with access to information about how to make the best political choices. As you consider open offices and candidates, maybe it’s time to ask:    

  • What issues are most important to you?
  • What is the candidate’s plan to encourage economic development and encourage the creation of new, family-sustaining careers?
  • How will the candidate address the student debt crisis and help encourage access to quality, affordable post-secondary education?
  • Socially, how does the candidate align with your core values?
  • How will the candidate work to end the divisive, polarized political climate?
  • How does the candidate plan to engage and tap into the power of our teen and young adult population?
  • Where does the candidate stand on protecting our community’s and nation’s most vulnerable populations?
  • What is the candidate’s plan to help ensure that every child has access to a safe, consistent, quality K-12 education?
  • How does the candidate demonstrate social responsibility both in words and practice? 
  • Does the candidate possess the skills, experience, and charisma to be an effective leader?
  • Do I trust that the candidate will use his or her office to promote public good rather than self-interest?

We can still sigh and change the station when a political ad comes on the TV or radio, but we can’t afford to tune out from the larger context of our local, state, and national elections. The stakes are too high.

How would you encourage us all – as citizens – to prepare? Hope starts here.