I went to a Republican candidate's forum for North Carolina State offices last night. (Suddenly I want to sing "I went to the Animal Fair.") First of all, we are in worse trouble than I thought. Why? Because there were more candidates than audience. Speaking with several of them before the event, they each expressed this is the case everywhere they go. Citizens are disengaged, have given up, cynical, and generally don't believe anything they hear. So they stay home. They don't even bother to meet the candidates or listen to what they say. Our political class has become so distrusted at this point, that I'm wondering how this country can even hold an election. Maybe citizens are waiting for November. I don't know. But this is primary season and this is when the citizens will have the most say over who is on the ballot in November. Where are the citizens?
My observation is that North Carolina is mirroring the national presidential race on the Republican side of things. The candidates we are seeing, except in a few cases, are hybrids of this and that. I'd hardly say they qualify for the definition of "staunch Republican." They say they are conservative Republicans, but like the presidential primary race, what we are getting is a mish mash of hybrid types. Some don't seem conservative at all. Some are Libertarians. Some have their pet projects, some have an unrecognizable agenda somewhere between big government and smaller government, most talk "more jobs,"better economy," and "lower taxes." Generic sound bites for an audience who has heard it all before and sick of seeing the same ole same ole. One old guard Republican, a man who has been around the game for years and years, leaned into my ear on his way out to say, "This is a room full of B.S."
What's is sad about this is I believe there are citizens out here in the hinterland who are craving substance. Without clear definitions of policies and serious substance, is it any wonder that citizens are tuning out? Maybe citizens really don't care anymore. Maybe they truly have given up. Sort of like shopping for wallpaper...there are so many undesirable choices that wading through them all is just too overwhelming for anyone to suffer through. Maybe the citizens are waiting for the cream to rise to the top so then they can make some decision. But at the least, at this point, it doesn't look like the citizens are very much engaged.
I'm sitting here looking at the slate of Republican candidates for state and county offices. There are: 6 candidates for Governor, 5 candidates for Lt. Governor, 5 for Auditor, 5 for Superintendent of Public Instruction, 4 for Sec. of State, 3 for Commissioner of Insurance, 4 for State House Dist. 109, 3 for U.S. House 10th Dist., 6 County Commissioner candidates, ...it goes on. We have no less than 10 judges seats up for grabs. Plus the Register of Deeds seat. There are a very few positions running unopposed. All of these candidates didn't show up, but quite a lot of them did, which made for a very long night.
That, friends, is just the Republican primary in the State of North Carolina. Now I am somewhat involved and engaged in all of this and I look at that list and my mind is spinning. So imagine someone who is just going about their daily life and not watching this closely. What can that person do to vote intelligently on all of those elected positions?
I have an idea. It may be ridiculous, so you can tell me if it is. What if the Republican Party actually had standards of policies that must be agreed upon by candidates? Would that cut the wheat from the chaff? In other words, put together a list of policies that must be followed if you wish to run for office as a Republican. Is that so hard? What we have now, for some unknown reason to me, is a list of Republicans with policies all over the map, an a la carte menu of so many variations that no one seems to adhere to anything. Is it any wonder that citizens are confused? Add to that the Republicans already in office who vote this way and that way, who hold no clear definitive principles, and what do you have?
Our Tea Party Candidates Forum is tomorrow night. We'll see if more people turn out for that. AND, if we can nail the candidates down. At the moment, it all seems like a very difficult slog.