Reality Check

A Political Hornets’ Nest

Voting is foundational to the continuation of our democracy, but uniformed voting perpetuates sound bite governance and tribalism

This summer, we had an inordinate amount of hornets at our house. I asked a friend who seems to be a “guy in the know” about the hornets, and he reported the “old-timers” firmly believe hornet infestation foretells a long, damp, cold winter. I thought last winter met that definition, so I am rather anxious to see how much colder, snowier, and longer this winter will be.

Perhaps the hornet presence also foretells the type of campaign season we should anticipate. With campaign season extending longer than September to November, most of us have drowned out political ads, turning to our “friends in the know” for advice. I am often asked my opinions, but I must admit the information I give is inherently biased. (Please don’t tell my friends.) If I have met the candidate, I base my opinion largely on first impression. Candidly, the “don’t judge a book by its cover” bias has rarely caused re-evaluation with additional knowledge. Generally, like most Montanans, I can tell the genuine from the fake, and the selfless public servant from the selfish, ladder-climbing “give me the position, any position” candidate. If I have not met the candidate, I read background information from various news sources. But I only read those news sources I personally find credible, like the Wall Street Journal and the Flathead Beacon. I mix up my television news sources much like I cook: a little of this, a little of that, hoping to discern the truth by combining sources. My preferred mix includes the PBS News Hour, Bloomberg and Fox News. Of course, this presents another bias, because I don’t watch CNN or MSNBC to add their views to the mix.

So, if we can’t trust our friends or campaign ads due to bias, what should we do? You can’t go wrong making an informed decision, so do your own research. If you aren’t interested in wading into the hornets’ nest of candidate discernment, determine for yourself if your vote is wasted on a “best guess” or by relying on the last sound bite you heard. I very much adopt the “your vote matters” mantra. However, if misplaced, if not given to the candidate you believe shares and represents your views, little good is gained by lodging an uniformed vote or by giving your vote to an undeserving candidate. Your vote is a proclamation of your belief in the candidate’s ability to represent you. While candidates favor voting for the sake of voting, I favor voting with confidence, or not voting at all. And while voting is foundational to the continuation of our democracy, ignorant voting perpetuates sound bite governance and tribalism. Make no mistake: every vote does matter, whether given or withheld. Make yours matter.

Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.