As the 2018 election season begins to elevate to fever pitch, voters are being challenged, perhaps more than in other years, to truly think for themselves as they cast their votes. We'd like to say that voters should always be compelled to go beyond party-line voting and to choose candidates based on merit and position—but in the face of a number of cases in point, voters will clearly need to have critical thinking skills on lock this year.
Take the case of Mark Roberts, the Independent Party of Oregon candidate for the 2nd Congressional District—the position currently held by Rep. Greg Walden. The Independent Party has endorsed Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner in that race, according to a statement on McLeod-Skinner's website. According to media reports, the decision not to endorse their own party's candidate came after comments Roberts allegedly made about the First Lady on Twitter. (Yet another bellwether of today's political climate: Twitter as the podium for incendiary commentary of all ilk, in 280 characters.)
And then there's the marked lack of endorsement for Patti Adair, running on the Republican ticket for position 3 in the Deschutes County Commission, after securing a stunning upset against moderate and well-respected Republican Tammi Baney in the May primary. Republican leaders including House Minority Leader Mike McLane and Oregon Sen. Tim Knopp have endorsed fellow Republican and incumbent position 1 Commission candidate Tony DeBone, according to DeBone's website, but have not endorsed Adair. During a recent debate, her opponent, Democrat James Cook, accused her of being divisive and inviting controversial speakers to Bend.
And then there's Democrat and House 54 candidate Nathan Boddie. Since allegations of misconduct emerged this summer, Democrats including Gov. Kate Brown and Sen. Jeff Merkley moved to support Working Families Party candidate Amanda La Bell. In another twist, however, Brown and Merkley withdrew their support for La Bell on Tuesday, according to Willamette Week, after the candidate admitted she hadn't actually earned a bachelor's degree, as was stated in the Oregon Voter's Pamphlet.
To say it's a season in which simply ticking a "D" or "R" box will suffice may be an understatement. Some of the reasons behind these non-party-line endorsements and withdrawals stem from alleged bad behavior or inappropriate statements. Others come, or so it seems, from an aversion to the divisiveness that we see stemming from even the highest office in the land. When the president is able to go straight to voters and to stir up hot debates with a simple tweet, what need is there to rely on your own party to help you get your message out there?
Still, being able to reach voters so directly also puts a burden on voters to think critically. While the "fake news" battle cry can be concerning—especially when thrown at news outlets that actually staff trained journalists versed in the process of sorting fact from fiction—it can also stand as a reminder that voters need to possess the capacity to think critically, to listen carefully, to evaluate sources—and to use multiple sources in decision making. Even with the endorsements we have printed in this paper—and will print for the current election in the coming weeks—we hope it's just one of many tools local voters will use to get to know candidates. Other tools in the voter toolbox include debates and forums, and each candidate's own websites, as well as other media sources.
Voters should always feel compelled to vote beyond the party line. It's our hope that as we begin to delve more deeply into the election season, you use this as just one resource that helps you make informed decisions about who gets your vote.