I’ve followed politics for about 50 years. I’ve been outside, inside, on top of and beneath the business of elections and the governmental system under which we live in many roles. I like to think I have at least a layman’s grasp of the concept.

But one facet of the business I’ve never been able to understand: endorsements. Now, anecdotally, maybe there is some value in a particular local election where people know each other. I’ll give you that. But, as a general concept, I find no use in them.

If someone has so little understanding of the person or issue they are about to vote on that they have to see what a celebrity or politician endorses before making up their mind, I’d hate to think that person also has a driver’s license. As I’ve cast many a ballot, I’ve never stopped to wonder “Who else said they liked this guy?” “Who said I should vote for him?” “How does George Clooney feel about this?” Never once.

We’ve got a congressional candidate in these parts who’s been endorsed by a couple of former astronauts who were dragged around the district for anyone old enough to remember their exploits to “ooh” and “ah” over. Some did. Far more didn’t. For my part, if George Washington appeared on one side of this guy, and Abraham Lincoln on the other, telling me this was “their fella,” he still couldn’t get my vote.

I want to be very clear here. If a president goes to candidate rallies as he’s trying to get out the vote and supporting his party, that’s one thing. Same if a governor tours the state beating the drums for his/her party to get voters to the rolls on election day and slaps his party’s candidate on the back. That I understand.

But to lay his/her hand on someone’s shoulder and say “I like this guy … ol’ what’s his name … and he has my full endorsement.” Well, that’s something else. In one ear and out the other.

I innocently got caught up in one of these endorsement deals once. A candidate had been approved by the local chamber of commerce political action committee. He wasn’t my guy. But candidates endorsed by chambers of commerce seldom are. In this case, the candidate used the committee endorsement to run a full page ad in the newspaper touting his “achievement.” But, rather than say the endorsement came from a committee of a dozen members, he listed every member of the chamber by name. All 600 or so. Mine, too. I’ll bet he lost some votes on that one. I’ve always hoped so.

Good folk that we are, we like to think people go to the polls knowing the candidates and issues because they’ve done their personal research and know the facts. We’d like to think that. But, too often, that ain’t the way it is. Too many folks mark the ballot either for reasons that have nothing to do with good government, or in ignorance, while telling themselves they’re “good citizens” because they voted.

Democracy is not a foolproof deal. In many cases we’ve survived this or that catastrophe in spite of ourselves and not through informed choices. Dumb luck.

Ironically, while we currently have the best tools in history to make ourselves better informed, we’ve created so much information we sometimes can’t find that we need. We’ve also put minutiae on the same level as more important, life-changing events in the guise of “news.” So someone who knows Lindsey Lohan’s latest adventure with the law can feel he/she is up on “current events.” While the really important information of the day simply slides by.

Maybe it’s for these … the unknowing … that endorsements still have some value. Maybe there are enough folks who can be swayed by the attachment of some celebrities fame … local or otherwise … to a candidate to win the election. Maybe name dropping is the key to success.

Damn! I hope not.

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