As Nov. 7 approaches, the political noise level builds to a cacophonous screech amidst the nonstop hucksterism of increasingly rabid campaign ads. Luckily, we have the League of Women Voters doing its understated duty of "reconnecting citizens with government." Its main vehicle for achieving this commendable goal is the Candidates' Answers tabloid that accompanies your Isthmus this week.
The Dane County League touches on the major races in the county and referendums. It also provides information on polling times and locations and registration regulations. The League is nonpartisan, and candidates' responses are verbatim, except for answers that exceed the 100-word limit, which are subject to abrupt truncation.
Unfortunately, in some cases the League's effort would be better titled Candidates' Non-answers, as some office seekers do not cooperate. It's inexcusable that any candidate would duck the opportunity to communicate with the voters.
Often this failure to communicate reveals more about an office seeker than any answer would. In the case of the League, there is no excuse for not responding. The questions are open-ended and not calculated to skewer a candidate. The same questions are asked of all aspirants to a particular office. The League does not editorialize or endorse. What possible reason could a candidate have for not responding?
Here are a few: The candidate cannot read or write. But even in this case a campaign aid could help complete the process. The candidate may have something to hide. This is a distinct possibility, though the Candidates' Answers format doesn't force any revelations. The candidate is too lazy or not really serious about running for office. This is definitely the causal factor in one or two races every election. The candidate is disdainful of the public's right to be informed. This is always true of nonrespondents, but not necessarily the only reason.
In a column in the Oct. 25 Wall Street Journal, Peter Grant, writing about the growing unresponsiveness to the national, all-inclusive Project Vote Smart, lays the blame for shut-mouth politicians on the fear of providing grist for opponents' attack ads. The candidates, the column imparts, want to control any information about them. But isn't that what election campaigns are supposed to be about - give and take and wrestling with the issues so the voters can make a choice? Our politics will be better and so will our government when the people who want to lead and serve actually tell us where they want to lead us and whom they serve.