Style over substance in politics? We’d rather not

Posted 8/9/19

The early Democratic primary debates for the 2020 presidential election are usually described afterward by major news outlets as battlegrounds for “winners” and “losers.”

It’s not …

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Style over substance in politics? We’d rather not

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The early Democratic primary debates for the 2020 presidential election are usually described afterward by major news outlets as battlegrounds for “winners” and “losers.”

It’s not necessarily incorrect to do that. The very nature of debate lends itself to winners and losers, and the events do allow for candidates to promote themselves or attack their opponents in the early stages of the grandest and most expensive horserace in the world.

But unfortunately, the American people are the losers because that format and the way politics are covered at-large in America focus more on style than substance.

We hope to avoid that here in Chatham County.

The 2019 elections are coming up and there are three contested local municipal races. Incumbent John Grimes and challengers Jackie Adams and Albert Reddick are squaring off to be the mayor of Siler City. Mike Constantino is facing a challenge from Curtis Brown and Timothy “Cookie” Brown for the Siler City Commissioner seat in District 3. And seven candidates — incumbents John Bonitz and J.A. Farrell III and challengers Pam Cash-Roper, Heather Johnson, Bridget Perry, Kyle Shipp and Lonnie West — are angling for three seats on the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners.

We certainly hope they don’t lean into style over substance.

One of the sad realities of America’s governing process is that style is more often praised than substance, at the very least on the way to office. The term “electability” is thrown around, and it usually refers to whether or not a candidate has the “it factor” that can get them elected or defeat their opponent. What usually gets lost in the scuffle is whether or not said candidate is “right” for the job in front of them, and whether they can pull off the tasks that face them.

We saw that clearly when Donald Trump was elected president. Say what you will about his policies, but many were drawn to him because of his demeanor, attitude and personality. He had no previous experience in government, but his business acumen and “tells it like it is” rhetoric were drawing factors. How well he’s executing is sometimes hard to decipher owing to the distractions he tends to create.

We hope to avoid that kind of discussion here in Pittsboro or Siler City. As we move forward into election season and kick up our coverage of the 2019 elections, we pledge to you that we will hone in on the substance of these candidates and what their policy positions are for these towns, the twin hubs of Chatham County.

Commissioners need to be well-versed in the issues and the policies that they will be discussing, considering and voting on in the next four years. They are like their respective towns’ congressmen — making decisions on behalf of their constituents with taxpayer money. The new or re-elected members of respective boards will serve as the legislators of their town. How will they do it, and why will they do what they do?

The mayor of Siler City, whomever it will be, has a dual task. First, he or she will serve as the non-voting chairman of the board, guiding and directing agendas and working to represent the town. What do they think is important to pursue policy-wise? Why should Siler City citizens place their trust in them as the town’s governmental figurehead? Second, he or she will be a representative of the town at ribbon-cuttings, government conferences and to us, the media and the people. How will they carry themselves as a representative? Will they embarrass us or make us proud?

These are the questions that we plan to ask and get the answers to. We promise that we won’t let political platitudes slide, but seek the honest answer. If a candidate doesn’t have an answer or doesn’t know the answer, we’ll report that too. We don’t want people representing us that are uninformed or doing this for the attention.

We want people who will put themselves second and their respective towns first. That’s what government is really all about.


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