Politics shouldn't be just a name game

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Politics have been on my mind quite a bit lately. But then - given the national and state climate and the vast differences in this great nation - it's understandable that politics would be an important issue for all of us.

You don't have to be a faithful reader of this column to know that I am a staunch conservative. But like most of you perhaps, I have probably cast more Democratic ballots than Republican. Granted, that's a product of casting county ballots and in Scott County offices, for the most part, you either vote Democratic or you chose none of the above.

But in discussions with a host of armchair politicians this week, the issue of name recognition was widely discussed. The general feeling is that name recognition alone is as important a political point as any other.

And the more I thought about the issue of name recognition, the more frustrated I became.

What does it say of the electorate if we simply vote for someone because we recognize their name?

The latest example is the Carnahan family who have been an important voice in Missouri politics for 20 years or so. Mel, Jean, Robin and Russ Carnahan have all held or are holding key political seats in Missouri politics. We can all judge their performance on our own values. But the point is that the Carnahan name alone will carry enough weight to give them a distinct advantage going into an election cycle.

We are becoming - and have been for a number of years - an electorate which conducts more of a popularity contest than an election. Perhaps the issues are too varied and too complex to be absorbed by most voters. I hope that's not the case but it's hard to argue otherwise.

If someone has name recognition yet few specifics on the issues, they will still have an advantage over the candidate who has the right answers but no name recognition. And thus, all too often, we get just what we deserve.

On the national level, the same rule applies. The Republicans are starting quietly to discuss potential vice presidential candidates to run with Mitt Romney or whoever comes out of this primary process. And one of the major qualifications is name recognition.

Granted, John McCain took the other approach in his selection of Sarah Palin during the 2008 elections. He picked an unknown with absolutely no name recognition. It's difficult to judge if that lack of recognition was a factor in the outcome. But who's to know.

Name recognition is certainly important. We all want to feel comfortable with those who receive our votes. But sometimes, name recognition trumps other qualifications that are vastly more important.

Next time you step into the voting booth, remember that just knowing the name of the candidate is far less important than knowing where they stand on the issues that are important to you.

Just because you recognize the name certainly doesn't mean that person is the best qualified for the office.

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