The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Campaigning without ideas

If you have turned on a television or a radio lately, you certainly know we're in the middle of political prime time. Maybe I've just forgotten what it was like in previous years, but it seems that we are being subjected to more political ads this time around than ever before. And not just a few more, but a lot more. They seem to run longer too. Some of them just go on and on telling us all kinds of things about the candidate or his opponent, mostly inconsequential things.

The trouble is, these are the very things upon which people tend to base their vote. Most people in their daily lives deal only with other people and events, and the political spin doctors know this. And so political ads focus on people and events. What you will almost never encounter in political ads are the very things that should be seriously weighed before voting: ideas.

Ideas, however, demand abstract thought, something in which most people have never engaged. Our educational system certainly doesn't encourage this kind of thinking, and neither do the task-oriented lives that most people lead. And so the politician appeals to the lowest level, attacking his opponent personally while depicting himself as a good guy or, at least, as a better guy. And when he tires of that he focuses on events and things, but he never talks about ideas for fear that millions of eyes and minds would glaze over.

Too bad, isn't it? Because ideas are what actually matter. Ideas, real philosophical ideas, will ultimately determine how the candidate will act once he's elected. And so the only way to judge a candidate with any accuracy is to understand the ideas that drive and influence him. If a candidate doesn't openly discuss these ideas, be suspicious. Pay no attention to his campaign promises or the happy family photos, but examine instead his record. By looking closely at a candidate's record a pattern of behavior will generally emerge, and from that pattern one can usually identify the ideas that motivate him. One can also learn more about a candidate's character from his record than from his words.

That's enough on the elections. Pray for all the candidates, even those you oppose. And don't forget to thank God for your being.

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