Tips on Voting Wisely

Prologue to the Primaries

The 2016 presidential contenders are coming onto the field, and at this point it’s anybody’s guess how many Republicans or Democrats will be entered in the race for the White House. What is certain is that next year’s election process will cost billions of dollars and be filled with lots of truths and un-truths. It’s way too early to sort out the viable candidates, let alone predict who will eventually win. But it’s not too soon to offer a few tips on how to listen to what’s being said, regardless of a candidate’s party affiliation. When it comes to sorting out fact from fiction, here are a handful of suggestions.

Check First, Believe Later

Never believe anything you hear until you check out the claims first, using reliable sources, several of them. News reporters (the good ones) don’t run with a single lead from one source; they require several solid sources for their information—and then they report basic information in a straight-forward manner, with no claim to ultimate truth. It’s one thing to ask questions and raise issues; it’s another to take sides in a complicated matter or lobby for one view over all others that are credible.

What's in a Word?

Listen carefully to the kind of language being used. Are the words inflammatory? Are they geared to one specific kind of audience? Does what is said sound logical? Are others using the same phrases and words (party ‘talking points’)? If so, beware. Look for alternate sources and compare what they are saying with what you’ve heard.

Consider the Source(s)

Whenever possible, check the sources behind statements that are made. Is this person or issue backed financially by a particular group? Are there websites that promote the same kind of views; and if so, what’s the makeup and philosophy of each of those sites?

What's Under the Tent?

Watch for special words or phrases that camouflage a speaker’s true intent. Words and phrases like ‘always, never, everyone, all the time’ are “Universal Quantifiers” that lump things into one ‘camp’ or ‘category’ . . . and are ALMOST NEVER accurate (note the qualifier ‘almost’ used here). If something is claimed to be ‘always true,’ that statement is about as reliable as believing that the moon consists of green cheese.

A Trio of Tripwires

Be on the lookout for three particular phrases designed to delude the hearer. If someone says, “With all due respect,” you can bet that what comes next is seldom respectful, perhaps not even accurate. Often a person will say, “The fact of the matter is . . . “ when in actuality what is said may not be based on any facts at all. If a person says, “Some of us were talking . . . “ or “A number of us think . . . “ you can be sure that the person standing in front of you represents a group of one, or has only a handful of likeminded followers.

Summing Up

We live in such a fast-paced age with so many media sources that go unchecked that it’s easy to be sucked into believing almost anything, or passing on to others ‘information’ that is anything but accurate. Many politicians (not to mention TV evangelists, sales reps, and outright kooks) make their living, or at least their notoriety, by saying outrageous things that pander to a select group—or put forward a particular claim that’s patently untrue.

The United States of America, Congress, occupants of the White House and local officials are far too important in all of our lives to accept at face value what any of them say to us. We’ve got eighteen months until the next big elections in November of 2016.

Now is the time to pay attention and start sifting the ’chaff from the wheat’, not the week before we go into the polling place to fill in those ovals or pull a lever. We Americans deserve the best, most informed, truthful and competent candidates we can muster. Let’s never settle for anything less.

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