A Note on Political Accountability

I do not believe that a party indicator should be why you vote a certain way. I do think that more often than not I could safely pick a Democrat over a Republican and be comfortable with my choice due to basic cultural belief variances between them.

Just because I support a candidate does not mean I agree with every position they have. I’m sure most people feel this way. Since I pay attention to legislation that pertains to the issues that I am passionate about, I also pay attention to what the folks on my ballot are doing. When I vote for or plan to vote for a candidate, of any party, I have not only the right, but the civic duty to hold that person accountable for the choices they make and it is also my job to tell them how I feel. If I don’t, if we as voters do not talk to our legislators about the issues, they will vote however the highest bidder tells them. That’s how they keep their job. By keeping donors happy so they will donate next time.

Now, in the case of primary elections, I think this is the time when a party base, and every voter, should be the most active in research, participation, volunteering, and advocating. This is when you narrow the field. Are you always disappointed in your November ballot choices? Run for office or, at the very least, pay attention to the primary. This is where you can have the most impact on the direction of the major parties.

This is when you bring your issues to light and try to get the candidates to go on record in support of the things you care about. The primary is a negotiation between the voters and the candidates. All candidates want to represent us, so we have a responsibility to inform them of how to do just that. To get them to understand what we want and then hold them accountable to see it through. Even going so far as to help them accomplish it by helping to sway public opinion with letters to the editor, public conversations, and in some cases, going to the statehouse to give testimony on a piece of legislation and its necessity or nefariousness.

When you get a candidate to support what you support as much as possible, you have to help them. And it’s hard work. But, you can literally make or break a candidate in the primary as a volunteer. Minimal funds, expensive advertising and printing needs, transportation costs, child care, inter-party discord, and many other things plague primary races. By donating money, services, volunteer time, and social media blasting, you can help propel your preferred candidate into the general election.

Now, there are times where you will not have a choice of multiple candidates in the primary. Unfortunately, often times incumbents have so much money that an unknown candidate feels they have no chance of winning. This is so frustrating. Our governmental offices should be open to anyone that feels the call to serve. Again, that’s a situation where volunteers can make a HUGE difference!

In those times, I still feel like the uncontested candidate should not get a free pass to the general. This is a chance for their own party to sway them on issues that they may be holding out on due to possible lobbying influences.

The aim is not to “tarnish” an incumbent of your own party and assist in a takeover of their seat. It is to keep them accountable to the voters and not the donors. In an ideal situation, every incumbent should face this, work it out with the people that got them into office, and come out stronger heading into the general election. If they didn’t legislate their way through their term with political expediency in mind, anyway.

And run for precinct committee person so you can tell all this to every one of your neighbors and make even more changes along the way. They are one of only 2 directly voter-elected positions within the party structure itself. This other is a state delegate. Precinct committee members in Indiana, for instance, can fill local positions through appointments in the instance of an unexpected vacancy, propose and vote on rule changes within their parties, register voters, make sure the voter rolls are accurate, and a few other things. State delegates go to the conventions and select their party’s Secretary of State, Attorney General, and State Superintendent candidates and vote on rule changes. Both of these positions are the heart of democracy.

Pick your top 3 issues, track every piece of legislation that comes up regarding them, and pay attention to your elected officials. People have been too busy, disenfranchised, and distracted to do this for far too long. It’s time to pay attention again. And I think most people feel that way, too.

A mother of 4 and an activist. Amanda is also the President of 92 County Strategy, a political action committee dedicated to civic engagement and education, and a member of the Executive Board of Directors for the Volunteers in Medicine of Dearborn Ohio and Switzerland Counties, a non-profit organization currently working to open a free clinic in her community. If she's not doing something community service related, she is usually kayaking or cooking with her kindergartener.

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Amanda is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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A Note on Political Accountability