Hopkins
Hopkins

Warning: This column contains content that may be offensive to anyone who supports our current president. Just sayin’.

I typically avoid politics in my column, but I have to go there this month — just because it’s too important not to. Don’t worry, I’m not advocating for anyone. Just making some not so gentle suggestions about the work we should do as the field gets narrowed down to the person who, hopefully, can get us out of the hell we’ve been in for the past two-plus years.

The first time I heard someone say that Bernie Sanders is too old to run for president, I was surprised. After all, he is only two years older than when he ran last time, and he has more energy than I do from what I can tell. The second time I heard someone say the same thing, I thought, “Huh. What’s going on? Is he?” The third, fourth, fifth and sixth times I heard it, I realized that it was a mantra. Something people are hearing and repeating — until everyone believes it. As so often happens in our culture, if you say something enough, it becomes true in the minds of those who listen.

I am not supporting any political candidate right now. I’m doing my homework and watching. I get why people think we need a younger person to run for office. But what I’m doing right now is listening to what the candidates have to say. Becoming informed about their platforms. Looking at their past records.

A woman I respect very much recently said that she didn’t like Sanders because she doesn’t want to pay for my kids’ college tuition. Sanders is promoting a plan for free education, and the assumption is that our taxes will go up dramatically. But if you do a little homework, you will see that this is not the case. Look at Germany, for example. And read more about Sanders’ plan.

I’m not going to spell it out for you here because that is not the point of my column this week. My point is, that we all need to do the deep dive into who the candidates are, their past records, what they are promoting and promising and how they plan to deliver it.

It’s not enough to “feel” good about a candidate. I’ve heard that a lot. “I kind of like (fill in the blank).” Or, “I think we need a woman or a person of color.” Yes, I agree with that. It would be great. I do too! But only if that person is the right person for the job. Wanting someone based on their gender or race is almost as bad as not wanting them for the same reason.

When you shop for a car, or a vacation rental or a new appliance, you get online and start reading. You look at reviews, you compare alternatives, you check consumer reports. In other words, you spend time making sure you are informed and know what you are buying. You would not spend that kind of money on something based on a knee-jerk reaction.

It should be the same with political candidates who will have enormous sway over your life. Taken in the same vein, you might check out a candidate’s voting record. Or look up videos of speeches they gave many years ago. Or read about their current plans and their overall political platform. And — this is critical — see who is supporting and endorsing them. Sponsors and big donors will often tell you more than a politician’s rhetoric.

Talk to one another. Ask your friends, people you trust, whom they are leaning toward and why. It does not have to be antagonistic. Years ago, when Bush was debating Al Gore, my brother was visiting and, because we were on opposite sides of the fence politically, he suggested that we not watch the debate. I agreed, on the condition that we made some tea and discussed our opinions. Not once did it get heated, and not once did it feel offensive. It was an exchange. And, while we still did not agree, we became more aware of one another’s reason for supporting the candidate we had chosen to support.

“Wow,” said my brother. “I didn’t know that people could talk politics without getting in an argument. This is great.”

One of the problems, as I see it, is the sports mentality we adopt when it comes to politics. Wanting our team to win. Wanting to be right. If we can move past that and realize that in reality most of us are on the same team, then everyone would win.

During Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, I was asked by someone if I would feel the way I do about his alleged transgressions if he was someone I wanted to see on the Supreme Court. I was offended, truth be told. But I can see where that could happen in cases when someone just wants their candidate to win so badly for reasons known only to them.

Do your homework. Speak your truth. Accept others’ challenges and be open and willing to change, orr to work to change someone else.  It’s too important not to.

Irene Panke Hopkins is a freelance writer, essayist and blogger. Her work has appeared in anthologies, magazines and online websites. Her website is irenehopkins.com.