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Cyanide & Happiness #4062

My three questions for candidates

People have different ways of selecting a candidate in any given elections, sometimes changing their selection method from election to election depending on current events. Some focus on a candidate’s position on the big issue of the day, some on a plethora of smaller issues, some one the tone of campaign ads, some on a specific hot-button issue, some on the candidate’s political party, some on what their chosen party tells them to do.

My approach is generally to focus on a few main questions (three in this example). Sometimes it’s hard to find the candidates’ answers to the questions and sometimes the candidates will hedge when answering, but to me, the answers to these questions say much more about the candidates than just their positions on the issues at hand.

Question #1: What is the candidate’s position on abortion?

This one has many shades of gray (funding, age limits, accessibility, notification, etc), but the focus of my question is on the candidate’s position about the morality of abortion. Should a woman have the right to choose whether or not to get an abortion? Usually, candidates will be fairly black and white on this issue.

Why this question?
It reveals something important about the basis for a candidate’s policy decisions. There is no argument that 100% opposes abortion (that I have heard or that anyone I know has heard) that is not based on religion. This is not to say that some of the arguments about limiting abortion are not valid for other reasons, but a strict, 100% opposition… it’s all about religion.

Why is it important?
Someone who has a strict anti-choice viewpoint bases their decision on religious dogma. I’m looking for a candidate who bases their decisions on rational thinking and objective reasoning. Basing decisions on 2,000 year old dogma doesn’t meet that criteria.

Question #2: What is the candidate’s position on climate science?

I want to clarify that this is not a question about any particular legislative proposals on how to handle global warming. This is a question specifically concerning the candidate’s view about the current state of climate science and, by association, whether they think global warming is occurring or not.

Why this question?
This question reveals an important aspect of the candidate’s objectivity and ability to independently analyze information. The evidence gathered by the world’s climate scientists overwhelmingly points to the fact that our planet is warming and shows an extremely high probability of it being accelerated by human activities. While the manner of dealing with the problem can be honestly and objectively debated, denying the existence of global warming is the intellectual equivalent of covering your ears and yelling “La! La! La! I can’t hear you!”

Why is it important?
Science education in much of the country is in a horrible state of insufficiency and the last thing we need is the country’s leaders making public statements discrediting good science in an attempt to score political points. Denial of global warming is ideologically-based and indicates that the candidate is more concerned with political or religious ideology than with objective reality and good science.

Question #3: What is the candidate’s position on the separation of church and state.

Prayer in public schools? Crèches in the courthouse lobby? Teaching creationism/intelligent design in public schools? Beginning government meetings with prayer? Proselytizing in the military? Religion-based discrimination? These issues are all ones of religious intrusion into what should Constitutionally be secular government activities.

Why this question?
This is another test of the candidate’s objectivity. Our Constitution has strict rules preventing government intrusion into religion and ensuring the free exercise of religion (and a non-preferential treatment of religion). A candidate’s response to this question reveals his thinking about religion and our government… and whether or not he actually supports the Constitution or if he only says he does.

Why is it important?
The religious right has become a disturbingly strong influence in this country, particularly in the Republican Party and the Tea Party. Despite their calls for following the Constitution, this issue reveals that their support of the Constitution only goes as far as their religious beliefs. The path they have chosen is one that leads to a theocracy and that’s about as anti-American as you can get. Any candidate who doesn’t strongly support an uncompromising separation of church and state is supporting that theocratic path.

There are other criteria that I use to select candidates as well as the ones above, but the above three questions serve as a good litmus test for candidate selection. I’ve only given brief summaries for the reasons behind each of the questions, but in each question, there’s a strong focus on finding out which candidates support good science and rational thinking, not necessarily by looking at many small issues, but by examining the overall intellectual and philosophical tendencies of a candidate. It establishes a foundation for further inquiry into each candidate’s positions, but if a candidate can’t provide that solid foundation based on a few simple questions, it seems silly to support them on issues that are, essentially, built upon that foundation.

If a candidate can’t leave religious dogma out of their decision-making process, doesn’t support solid science, and doesn’t support the Constitution, why should they get my support?

…or anyone’s support, for that matter.