VOTER BEWARE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
This has not been a pleasant election year. At the national level, the discourse, if you can call it that, veers between astounding and revolting.
However, we’re happy to say that, locally the conversation has been largely respectful — even in the hard fought race between Mark Higley and Katherine Sims.
At a public debate in Westfield, one observer walking out at the end of the night said, “You were right, it was civil.”
And candidates in Vermont are generally wise to take the high road. There have been campaigns, even here of course, that were highly negative. Most didn’t fare too well, and we sincerely hope that holds true this year.
We are concerned, however, about two things: The presence of super pac money and the increasing use of social media for campaigning.
Skillful use of social media has been credited with boosting several national campaigns, and as a fund-raising tool, we certainly can see its value. But as a campaign tool, it’s problematic for both voters and candidates.
Prior to social media, candidates were pretty much dependent on personal appearances and traditional media, in the form of ads and letters to the editor, as well as interviews, or debates, as a means to get their message out.
One of the virtues of that system, for the voter at least, was that both ads and letters are generally vetted for truth.
This newspaper, as do most, tries to find out if letter writers are legitimate and if the content stated as fact is true. Opinion, interpretation of a candidate’s record, actions, or speech is, of course, up to the voter. But traditional media does try to present voters with true information so they can make an informed decision.
On social media a person can say just about anything about anyone. There’s no fact filter.
Be careful this year. Don’t rely on Facebook when choosing a candidate. Check out the truth of a candidate’s position before you vote. Send an e-mail if you have a question, or make a phone call.
We have no doubt that a candidate would be happy to clarify a position rather than have his or her constituents, or potential constituents, voting with false information.
Now, for what it’s worth, we offer our limited endorsements.
The Chronicle’s policy when it comes to endorsements and editorials is that the editorial staff must be in agreement. Contrary to what might be perception, this crew is hardly in ideological lockstep — on anything, not just political candidates. Often, if there are six opinions to be had, between us we might hold them all.
However, we are unanimous on the following:
We support Bobby Starr and John Rodgers for state Senate in the Essex-Orleans district. Marcia Horne has exhibited a woeful lack of information about the issues and is patently unqualified to represent anyone in the Senate or anywhere else. Eric Collins, from Richford, we know little about. He was invited to a public debate, accepted, but canceled without explanation four days before the event. We invited him to submit an announcement of his candidacy for free. He did, but then withdrew it.
Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Starr have worked hard and effectively for the Northeast Kingdom. They both understand and love the area, both come from agricultural backgrounds, both have operated small businesses, and both have achieved positions where they do give the Northeast Kingdom a voice in the Legislature, which very much matters.
In the Orleans Caledonia House race, we support Sam Young and Vicki Strong. They have worked hard, are congenial to, and respectful of, each other, and they have brought a Northeast Kingdom perspective to the Legislature. Mr. Young brings not only an agricultural background, but also needed expertise in technology. One of the things he has worked hard on is getting Internet and cell services to the Kingdom.
The people in the Orleans-2 House race are fortunate. They’ve got four good candidates to choose from: Republican incumbents Mike Marcotte and Gary Viens, and Democratic challengers Ron Holland and Judith Jackson. They don’t differ much in their positions, just in how they might go about effecting them, or in their priorities.
Both Mr. Higley and Ms. Sims are also capable candidates.
Another thing this eclectic staff agrees on is that, in Orleans County, at least, party labels can be misleading, or at least not particularly meaningful. For instance, Marcia Horne’s attempts to paint Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Starr, both Democrats, as tax and spend liberals who toe the party line was patently ridiculous. If anything, the Shumlin Administration would have preferred to see them both take extended winter vacations in South America to shut them up about all the things they didn’t agree with on more liberal Democrats’ agenda, such as commercial wind, Act 46, stricter gun laws….
For the most part, the legislators currently representing us are a moderate bunch — meaning if they call themselves Republican they’re moderate Republicans, and if they call themselves Democrats, they’re moderate Democrats. The result being that there often isn’t an awful lot of difference between them. Many could change the R or D beside their name tomorrow, and no one would notice.
Most of the candidates this year have the Northeast Kingdom’s interests at heart, not those of a political party.
Above all, vote. It looks like there will be some very close races next week, and your vote matters. — T.S.