The litmus test for elected officials

Election coverage today is taking up more and more of our time, and saturating the landscape of political media. When it is not about Trump it is about the election.

What is happening, though, is that we are being talked at about it. That is because we are relatively passive about the process, and that has so far been our peril.

If you do not put a case together for why a candidate is what we need or not, a case will be put together for you, and presented to you, by a news outlet or by a friend, and if you do not scrutinize it – which ultimately means putting the case back together yourself after pulling it apart to see how it came together in the first place – then there is no way to understand it’s motivations.

I propose a litmus test.

For decades we have had politicians on both sides of the aisle tell us things that are inconsistent. We’ve had them say one thing in front of one crowd and change their tune to satisfy a different crowd. We’ve had them speak in generalized language to avoid committing themselves to a path of action, we’ve had them talk as though the other side was evil and was preventing them from doing good.

The other side may be evil, but if you’re telling me about how that’s stopping you from following through on what you’re trying to accomplish instead of trying to rally us all in a fight against the evil, then I have trouble believing that you are convinced.

So here is the litmus test: trust.

The one thing that has been consistent through recent decades is double speak, misrepresentation, and things like that. What we haven’t had is simple, plain, right-to-the-point truth telling. We never get the bluntness that you get from the people in life whom you trust, and we need that now.

The challenges of the third decade of the 21st Century require something other than the curated presentations of politicians who are looking to say as little as possible to offend the fewest and ruffle feathers reluctantly. Or not at all.

There is too much urgency now for that. We cannot do that.

So this is the litmus test: if a politician has spoken a paragraph worth of words and you’re still not clear on what they’re going to do, do not vote for that person. If you feel like an effort is being made to say as little as possible, do not vote for that person.

We need people right now with big aspirations. The litmus test is whether a civil servant can be a friend to the people, and the way to conduct that test is figuring out if they will level with you like a friend does.

Friendship is candid. It is not all small talk and superficial language, those are acquaintances. What we need in our offices are friends right now.

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