For all of us who are fifty and older, the 2020 elections – at the national, state, and local levels could profoundly affect our lives. All of us need to know where candidates stand on specific issues such as the protection of Social Security and Medicare, health care and drug costs, COVID-19, racial inequality, the economy, social issues, immigration, crime, taxes, and climate change, among others. It is important for us to look beyond the promises any candidate makes. We’ve got to closely examine not only what a candidate claims but their credibility, their history, the evidence they use for their claims, and more. After we analyze the claims we hear, we also have to weigh those claims against what we believe is most important for ourselves and for future generations.
Resources for Analyzing Political PromisesA resource for getting nonpartisan information on candidates and issues is the League of Women Voters. In our last newsletter, we featured the president of the League of Women Voters of Umpqua Valley, Jenny Carloni. If you don’t know much about the work of the League, you will gain some insights from what Jenny shared with us. Another way we can analyze claims that various candidates make is to do some fact-checking. Middlebury University Library lists some fact-checking resources they claim are nonpartisan: I personally like to start with my own analysis of any claims a candidate makes. Because of my particular background, I’ve analyzed literally thousands of speeches and claims over 25+ years. As a result of my experience, I have a pretty good record for ferreting out fishy assertions and promises. Here are some of the quick checks I use:
- Source Credibility: What do I know about the source, their past actions related to their claims, and their overall character and believability? Does the candidate have a history of being truthful?
- On face value, are the candidate’s verbal and nonverbal messages consistent or incongruent? What facial expressions, eye gaze, gestures, and tone can you observe? Are these nonverbal elements consistent with what the candidate is saying?
- Whose interests will be served if this candidate is elected and takes the actions they promised?
- Does the candidate use language to make emotional appeals? (Appealing to fear is common.)
- Does the candidate use unbiased expert information and data to back up claims?
- Are expert sources, research, or other supporting materials presented in context? And, are claims about opponents presented in context?
- Does the candidate back up what she or he says with relevant support?
- Is the information the candidate uses accurate?
- If a candidate uses analogies as a form of reasoning, is the comparison realistic? (For example, a candidate could not accurately argue that we should adopt a particular public plan that works in another country if that country has an entirely different form of government.)
- Does the candidate attempt to force false choices? (Either vote for me or face ruin, etc.)
We Must be Informed and Take ActionWe’ve all heard how important it is for us to vote. If you want information on where to vote, what’s on the ballot, or even how to register to vote, the League of Women Voters has a project called Vote 411 that can help you. Taking the initiative to find out how to vote is up to each of us. We have the resources we need. Now more than ever, we’ve got to be informed, active citizens. Our votes matter.