The folks at Project Vote Smart are out with a news release today lamenting the poor participation in their NPAT — the National Political Awareness Test — by Minnesota candidates and officeholders.
Project Vote Smart is an admirable project which assumes that candidates and officeholders are interested in doing everything they can to inform the voter.
And they are.
As long as they don’t have to answer, you know, questions.
A few years ago, when I was putting together Campaign 2004, we put together a legislative guide of candidates and sent a questionnaire to all candidates and current officeholders with 10 questions, along with a request for a statement on their candidacy. If they had something, we’d post it.
Most ignored it. A couple told us why, including one — who gave us the statement but refused to answer the questions — because “her position might change.” Huh?
Maybe MPR’s audience wasn’t big enough to warrant a candidate — or more likely some staffer — taking the time to answer “yes” or “no” to 10 simple questions. But that doesn’t explain Project Vote Smart being all dressed up and having no date. They have a huge audience.
Same thing with Select A Candidate. Some candidates were willing to answer specific questions, some wanted nothing to do with it (as if that would somehow stop us from indicating their positions on major issues).
In a way, it’s hard not to blame them. Being specific about issues can come back to haunt you. Someone will charge you with “flip flopping.” So the result is often candidates who’d just rather not go on the record with things like…. positions on issues. Why should they?
Other candidates say “we get surveys all the time, we don’t have time to answer them?” That one still gets me, because the claim is made we don’t have time to spread the message of what our position is because we’re busy out …ummm…. spreading our message. Whacky, ain’t it?
But there’s the Project Vote Smart list at that link above. And there’s the comment section just below here. If there’s a candidate reading this — and I know you’re out there — and you didn’t answer NPAT, maybe you could answer just one question, then.