Candidates, please stick to what matters

By Jim Matthews

The election season is upon us. People already are announcing their candidacies for races to be decided in 2018. There are the perennial candidates and the newcomers. I do not need to repeat their names here, as we will see plenty of them in the intervening nearly two years.

I do have a request of these fine candidates and the voters who will decide their fates: Please stay focused on the issues. I really do not want to hear your thoughts about their personal lives unless these issues are so egregious they make the person unfit for public office. And I am willing to bet most have led relatively decent lives.

What do I want to hear? I want to hear what you are going to do to make our lives better while you are in office. And I want specifics. I want to hear what changes you will make while in office. This means you need to study what is possible to do while you are in office. I do not want to hear what you think can be done. I want to know what you will do.

I know some of what you promise might not be possible. Once you discover that, if you get in office, tell us you learned that. And then tell us what else you will do.

And tell us what you do not do well. And tell us your plans for compensating for that. No one does everything at the highest level. It gives me confidence when a person can admit what he or she does not do well and what the plans are to make up for that. And it lets me know you acknowledge being human. And that lets me know you will not get yourself into a situation that will hurt us all.

And tell us what you think is being done well now, especially if it was enacted by a current or past opponent.

It shows character and that you are willing to admit someone from the other party might have a good idea once in a while. That is just realistic.

Voters must take an active role in this process. If you do not like either candidate, seek out an alternative candidate. Help that person get on the ballot. This does require extra effort and being involved early in the process. And it is not an easy thing to do.

The two-party system is entrenched and is difficult to change. It is possible, and it is necessary to do if we are to have free and fair elections.

It is necessary to vote. One of the oldest democracies in the world falls far behind most other democracies in voter participation. That is our own fault, and it is a shame. We have no excuse.

We can pressure our elected representatives to make changes to make voting more meaningful and easier to do. All it takes is to participate in our democracy.

We must push our leaders to have voting take place on weekends, over the internet. Allow us to vote for the candidate we choose and not according to party.

There are many other changes that can be made and have been made in other countries where voter participation is much higher.

During this and other elections, take part in the process. Attend meetings of governmental bodies and demand change. Or we can guarantee we will lose our rights as Americans.

Jim Matthews is a long-time resident of Greenfield. Please share your comments at