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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Guidelines for choosing an elected representative

    Since I am an unabashed political nerd, I spend a lot of time following the actions of fairly obscure politicians-obscure for Mississippians, at least. Hence, I’ve watched Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) for several years. Wellstone was a rare politician. He possessed his own set of ideals and spoke passionately for them, even in the face of controversy. He was a refreshing change from the vast majority of politicians who pander to the electorate so they can remain in office.
    Although I disagreed with a number of his views, the way he conducted himself, his dedication to his constituents-especially the poor and mentally ill-and his unmatched integrity are examples for all public servants.
    Andrew Sullivan, a noted conservative columnist, had this to say about the death of one of the most liberal members of the Senate: “This is terrible news for all of us who value diversity of opinion and liveliness of debate in a democratic society.”
    When an ideological foe offers that sort of praise, it is evident that Wellstone was a special person.
    Somber topics aside, unless you’ve been living in the tunnel underneath the Drill Field, you should know that next Tuesday is Election Day. The hottest in this region is the race between Reps. Ronnie Shows (D-Bassfield) and Chip Pickering (R-Laurel) for the newly realigned 3rd Congressional District.
    Both sides have bombarded voters with TV ads, literature and posters ad nauseum. Given the blizzard of information out there, I will weigh in on how a congressman should be judged.
    First, most congressmen follow what the leadership of their respective parties tells them to do-most of the time. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Chaos would reign if 435 congressmen pursued 435 completely separate agendas. This also does not mean that the individual congressmen don’t lobby their respective leaders.
    However, when it comes time to go on the record-i.e. committee hearings and floor votes–the congressmen generally do what they’re told. It’s a fact of life in the battle for political survival and is unavoidable in this democracy.
    For these reasons, the party of the candidate is very important. If you don’t like the platform of a candidate’s party, that is a legitimate reason not to vote for that candidate.
    To see how much a congressman is respected, and also to judge the congressman’s political skills, find out the congressman’s committee assignments. The most prestigious is the Appropriations Committee, which deals with most of the federal budget every year. As is true with any organization, the most powerful people are the ones with their hands on the purse strings. Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Tupelo) is the only Mississippian currently on Appropriations.
    The other two committees making up the “Big Three” are Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce. Ways and Means determines much of the tax laws and also does a lot with Social Security. Energy and Commerce possesses huge amounts of regulatory power. Almost half of all legislation in the House passes through the Energy and Commerce Committee. Pickering is the only Mississippian on Energy and Commerce.
    Other criteria involve doing a lot of research about the candidate. Has the candidate stuck to a particular ideology, even in the face of political opposition? That could tell you something about the integrity of the candidate.
    What sort of issues is the candidate campaigning on, and what is the candidate saying about them? Beware the candidate who talks a lot about polarizing issues like abortion and guns and avoids more pertinent issues like taxes, tort reform and national security. Also, if the candidate’s position on the latter issues consists of bland statements like, “I don’t like taxes,” and “America should be united,” look out.
    On this Election Day and every one after, find the candidate who isn’t afraid to be honest, direct and talk about details. It’s the best quality a public official can possess.
    In other words, vote for the candiate most like Wellstone.
    Wilson Boyd is a senior economics major.

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    Guidelines for choosing an elected representative