Ken Connor

It has been called the perpetual campaign. Even before the new Congress was sworn in, the nation's attention had shifted to the 2008 presidential elections. Every bill that the Democrats bring to the floor is discussed in terms of 2008. Strategists from both parties are already working overtime to either continue their momentum or regain lost ground.

Every eligible American has a responsibility to vote and an obligation to make an informed choice about which candidate to support. Few decisions are more important than deciding who will lead the country. Therefore, as men and women start throwing their hats into the ring for president, it is time to consider the criteria against which we can measure whether or not a candidate deserves our support. Here are five important points worth considering:

Substance Versus Style. In today's age of television and internet video, candidates often worry more about style than substance. All too often, time and money are spent developing a candidate's wardrobe or hairstyle while substantive policy proposals languish. This trend is especially obvious when watching party conventions (which are little more than Hollywood extravaganzas), or presidential debates (which are little more than a collection of "soundbites"), or political commercials (which often involve little more than character assassination). The emphasis on image often comes at the expense of thoughtful and sober democratic debate. The American public should step up and demand substance over style. Hard questions should be asked about a candidate's position on substantive issues, and the public should insist on clear, incisive answers rather than vague generalities. Voters must commit to hol ding candidates to a higher standard when it comes to substantial policy positions.

Promoting for the Common Good. The preamble to the United States Constitution declares that the charter's purpose is to promote "...the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." These themes are often ignored by candidates who try to buy constituencies with promises beneficial only to them, and without regard to the cost to future generations. How refreshing it would be if, when asked by a particular interest group, "What are you going to do for us?" the candidate responded, "Nothing. The greater good of the country requires something else." People should be voting for the common good, not just for that which meets their individual needs. Sometimes in life we need to sacrifice our own desires for the sake of others so that the community will flourish. We desperately need leaders who will put the public interest ahead of that o f the special interests.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.