by Marisol Enriquez, DPBC Chair
Have you ever been the second-hand reader of a book whose previous reader highlighted almost every word on the page? It begs the question, “Would that reader really be able to look back in five years and figure out which specific part they wanted to refer to?”
The answer is, probably not. To highlight all the text is just the same as not highlighting any of it. Nothing stands out.
In today’s political environment, for candidates running for office, endorsements are all the rage. Candidates reach out asking the support of anyone and everyone who might be a part of the political networks they are connected to. If they have an organization behind them, or a title that sounds good, all the better.
If you’re someone who has done any work in politics, however minimal, chances are you’ve been asked for an endorsement. It can be flattering that a candidate seems interested in what you have to say and that they think your words carry weight. But, are they really interested in your words?
Some candidates are not interested in what kind of endorsement they receive. Some messages of support specifically call to the work the candidate has done and why the person endorsing them matters. Others are general and vague. Lately, it seems candidates want all of them, favoring quantity over quality.
I have recently been asked for multiple endorsements, as party elections seem to be happening almost daily. In one scenario, I gave an endorsement without asking myself the questions above, and also because it was a race that very likely would only have one candidate.
Upon learning a second candidate had entered the race, I found myself in a position to either endorse the new candidate, too, or rescind my original. I wanted to keep things fair. I chose to rescind my original endorsement, because I don’t want my endorsements to become meaningless and diluted in the future.
I didn’t like being in that position, so I decided to use it to learn from. For subsequent endorsement requests, I have chosen to say, “I am withholding endorsements because of my role within the party,” and the responses I have gotten from candidates have been mostly understanding and positive. I’ve received responses like, “Considering your position, it makes total sense,” and “Thank you for doing what you feel is the right thing to do,” and “Thank you for doing the right thing.”
But, I have also been the recipient of condescending, bullying, harassing responses that attempted to peer pressure me into changing my mind. This is unacceptable, and many people I’ve shared specifics with don’t seem to care, which gives me great concern. Are they afraid of going against the grain or speaking up? Are they afraid of what will happen to them if they do not endorse? If so, why do we allow anyone in our party to behave this way? It’s a massive failure and gives us even more reason to push for a Code of Conduct.
If the practice has become to gather endorsements from people with titles simply to collect a multitude of them, then I ask, does an endorsement even carry any weight? Do any of those endorsements stand out, or is this just a case where all the words on the page are highlighted?
If you’ve been in my position recently, I ask you to rethink this process for yourself. Do you really know the candidate? Do you really have experience working with them that lets you know they are the best suited for the role they seek? Or, are you feeling flattered, peer pressured, or even a little ambivalent, like, “What harm can it do?”
I assure you, your words carry weight, and so does a photo of your face. Lend them intentionally.
If you are a candidate, I ask that you consider those same things. Do you seek an endorsement from a person who knows exactly what you are about? Or, are you trying to simply gather the most endorsements? Don’t you want someone’s support to lend you serious credibility for the role you seek?
If so, it matters who you ask, and why. You want voters to pay attention to who you’ve received endorsements from, not tune out every time they see a new endorsement ding in. Be intentional. Don’t put forth a page where nothing stands out. Put forth a page where the things that stand out are consequential, weighty, key reasons a person should vote for you.
I have recently also been a candidate. I made a list of everyone I’d directly worked with in the past, and some I hadn’t, and I asked for endorsements. Those I hadn’t worked with, I made time to speak with, so that they could ask me hard questions. The hard questions told me what they expect of me, and they guide me in my role.
Lastly, voters–you’re bombarded with the political noise, too. You have to decipher which candidate is best, likely having not met them. I ask you: don’t fall prey to quantity over quality. Use discernment. Find the vague endorsements and ignore them. Then count the ones that actually say something. Do you want someone who is only in office because they are popular, or do you want someone who lends quality, effort, and intention to what they put forth?
Despite our modern age, old adages still ring true: Quality over quantity is still a valuable, useful precept to pay attention to. Look for the things that stand out. They’re the words on the page that tell the real story.