Apathy fueled by lack of honest dialogue

Sen. Hillary Clinton’s planted question shows candidates’ need to focus on honesty and integrity.

by Chelsey Perkins

The average American has plenty of reasons to feel disengaged in today’s political climate. In the wake of two questionable presidential elections, the growing sentiment that our votes really don’t matter in combination with increasing frustrations over partisanship are leading to an indifferent electorate.

Navigating oneself through corporate media biases in presenting the 2008 presidential candidates is difficult enough in itself, but when candidates seem to froth at the mouth over bashing their competitors, but cannot clearly articulate their policy positions, question-and-answer sessions with “real Americans” seem to be one of the last true dialogues between the elite and the masses.

In the past week, however, it has become obvious that at least one candidate who has attempted to separate herself from our current leader of the free world is employing some of the same campaign tactics and is destroying candidate- constituent confidences. (See any town hall meeting held by President George W. Bush).

In Iowa last week, Hillary Clinton’s staffers reportedly planted a somewhat benign question about global warming with Grinnell College student Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff. Gallo-Chasanoff claims Clinton staffers approached her and asked if she wanted to ask the senator a question. She said she would want to, but when she shared the question she had in mind (about how Clinton’s energy plans compared to the other candidates), the staffers encouraged instead for her to ask the question about global warming.

Although Clinton denies any knowledge of the planted question, she managed to select Gallo-Chasanoff from a crowd of over 300 Iowans.

I do not doubt that many of the questions posed in events like this one are candid and sincere, but I also do not doubt that it is beneficial to a campaign to coerce questions for which the candidate has prepared answers.

Voters, as stakeholders in the future of this country and the world, should demand honesty and integrity from our presidential candidates. Although oft-undervalued characteristics in this society, their importance in the highest office in the land is obviously innumerable.

Think of what could be, had we placed a higher value on those characteristics in 2000. Rather than fighting a war based on trumped-up charges and lies, we could have taken the billions of dollars we are now spending in Iraq and used it toward finding viable solutions to our incredibly gluttonous use of energy. Or perhaps instead of “cutting the pork” from our most basic human rights to education to buy more RPGs, we could have found a way to actually leave no child behind.

I know it’s just easier to go downstairs to your basement and play Second Life than to fight for civil rights you cannot see or touch. I know it’s discouraging to feel as though you don’t matter in the political makeup of this country.

But I also know that unless we begin to work for change within the system we face and can be honest with one another and those who lead us, we will never see true progress in our society.

Chelsey Perkins welcomes comments at [email protected]