Our jobs in the election process

Published August 15, 2012

Forget the ads. Ignore the polls. Shut out all the noise and spend some time considering what is at stake in the upcoming elections and who you think can best lead us.

Sadly, the candidates seeking election in 80 days aren’t helping us make these very important decisions. They are so busy trying to frame their opposition through attack ads we aren’t getting substantive discussion and their position statements about important public policy issues. But one way or another you and I are going to have to make that call November 6th.

It is very important who will be the next president and governor. Not only do they chart the course of our state and nation but they also make important decisions in selecting managers who will administer that government. In our Governor’s race it would be extremely instructive if both Walter Dalton and Pat McCrory would tell us who they intend to appoint as cabinet secretaries for Transportation, Commerce, Health and Human Services and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. It would help tremendously in understanding the people who will be implementing their policies.

A strong case can be made that some of the most important elections in North Carolina are relegated to equally important down-ballot Council of State races that impact every citizen but are generally poorly understood. The State Treasurer decides how to invest more than 70 billion dollars in state pension plans and administers the state health plan, impacting more than 700,000 people, while also providing oversight and assistance to local governments in approving and marketing public debt. Our Insurance Commissioner approves which companies can sell insurance and regulates the industry that provides insurance and pays claims on our property, our autos and our health. The Attorney General is our state’s top cop. The State Auditor is the public watchdog to make sure financial functions are properly carried out and people in government do their jobs properly. The Commissioner of Labor ensures that our workplaces will be safe. The Superintendent of Public Instruction has a large voice in how our children will be educated. Our Ag Commissioner assists our giant agribusiness industry to put food on our tables and ensures that what you get at the pump is gas, not buttermilk. And the Secretary of State licenses business and regulates lobbyists. It is important for us to know we have steady hands at the wheel in all these positions, as they function somewhat independently from our governor and our legislature.

If we are to enjoy the rights and freedoms of our republic we must also understand we also have an important role to play in preserving and protecting them. President Ronald Regan put it correctly when he said, “While a constitution may set forth rights and liberties, only the citizens can maintain and guarantee those freedoms. Active and informed citizenship is not just a right; it is a duty.”

Those who founded this nation trusted informed citizens to make good decisions at the ballot box, so while it is distracting and disappointing that modern-day elections turn us off more than they inform us, we are not relieved from the obligation to be informed and deliberative. That’s our job as citizens and voters.