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Mallary: Campaign Courage

08/10/10 5:55PM By Dick Mallary
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(HOST)  A life-long participant in Vermont politics, commentator Dick Mallary wishes that candidates for public office would demonstrate more courage on the campaign trail.  

(MALLARY)  Here we are again in the early stages of the Vermont election season.  As I read reports of the candidate forums and the public statements of the candidates for office, I see lots of generalities about their experience, their skills and their compassion, but I see almost no specific proposals as to how they would address the big economic issues facing Vermont or how they would deal with contentious social or environmental issues.

I know what the problem is. Politicians don't like to be the bearers of bad news. They want to tell their voters what good things they have done for them and what nice things they propose to do for them in the future.  If there are problems, they will find someone else to blame and then paint a glowing picture of how they will resolve them.

Unfortunately, this is a tried and true and rational behavior for candidates to employ. Voters tend to vote for candidates who tell them what they want to hear.  They may not believe the rosy scenarios the candidates paint, but they find them more comforting than unpleasant truths.

What candidate has the courage to say that our social security and pension systems are unsound and that the age of retirement will have to rise along with lengthening life spans?  What candidate has the courage to support a large increase in the gas tax or a substantial carbon tax to encourage energy efficiency and forestall global warming?

What candidate has the courage to support merit pay for teachers and reasonable limits on teacher tenure?  What candidate is willing to support accelerated permitting for wind generation on Vermont's ridge lines to supply green alternative energy?  How many candidates have specific programs or statements of position on abortion, assisted suicide, firearms regulation, immigration reform or marijuana legalization?

Easy. The answer is very few. You don't get elected by telling people what they don't want to hear or what they disagree with.

I recently heard a pundit discussing the coming election. He insisted that candidates need to talk seriously about more than just vague promises for creating jobs. He's right.  We need to know more about what they really intend.

It pains me to say this, but I for one don't expect to hear much frank discussion from the candidates about the hard realities before November second - unless we demand it of them.
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