The Citizens Agenda results are in; let the indignant caterwauling begin!
Visitors of this space should be familiar with the subject: Cascadia Daily News, in a resolute effort to shape election coverage in a way most meaningful to readers, conducted its own “Citizens Agenda” straw poll to select five questions for candidates in the runup to the pivotal Nov. 8 general election. Results were published last week.
It didn’t take long for the knives to come out, with a handful of readers griping about the selected questions. A couple of these responses are noteworthy, in the sense that they represent not only Peak Bellingham, in a way, but also Peak American Political Dysfunction:
One candidate for public office, before responding in writing to a questionnaire we plan to publish in our Oct. 19 Voter Guide, wanted to change the wording of one question: The term “homeless problem,” said candidate surmised, misrepresents the issue by placing blame on the roofless population, whereas “homelessness” gets more to the point that it’s a societal issue in need of attention.
First, I agree. Second, no, we’re not changing it. The question was put to the public precisely in the language we received from a reader; the country has enough election integrity concerns without us rewriting Citizens Agenda questions to make everyone feel like they’re answering in a proverbial safe space.
Besides: Why should the candidate assume that the wording of the question was not intentional, from a conservative-leaning, get-‘em-off-the-streets viewpoint? People have wildly opposing solutions, but it’s safe to say homelessness is indeed an issue of interest to folks on both sides of the divide.
Additional blowback came from a few (literally, a few) readers who thought our Citizens Agenda approach was a good one — until they saw the results.
One emailer lamented that they had somehow missed the opportunity to vote on the questions, and, seeing the results, knew the odds were stacked, anyway.
“Since all of the items that you mentioned have nothing to do with me and nothing that I am concerned about, I would anticipate you’re not interested in other than a progressive left-wing agenda,” this reader wrote. “Personally the items I would’ve chosen are the economy first and secondly immigration, the increasing cost of living, high crime rate, the rising cost of putting the green agenda into effect and other things that affect us all. I guess I have just put the Cascadia news into my file of newspapers I likely will not read during the election.”
That’s an option, of course. Just not an enlightened one.
The Citizens Agenda is just that — a non-scientific reflection of items of most importance by readers who took the time to pay attention and vote.
Please understand: Those five questions selected by readers are the starting point, not the endpoint, of subjects we will address with candidates during our election coverage. Every time we speak to them, whether in reporting stories or conducting editorial board interviews, candidates will be on the record and responding to a full range of questions about relevant local and national issues.
Beyond that, most if not all of the preferred subjects of the above email griper are topics we already cover on a daily basis in news stories, columns and guest commentaries on our website and every week in our print edition (see, particularly, our recent coverage of what would qualify as “the rising cost of putting the green agenda into effect.”)
As to the final retort, about the “progressive left-wing agenda”: Please.
Take another look at the list of questions proffered by our readers, and ask yourself: Is solving the problem of homelessness not a concern of conservatives? Is ensuring transparent elections free from the political influence of — or outright cancelation by — party hacks not a concern of donors to the party of Lincoln and Reagan? Is the future of U.S. health care, and curbing the violence of mass murders committed with guns, something of concern only to leftists?
The honest answer to those questions says more about the state of modern “conservative” politics than it does about our process.
All of this points back to a point made here weeks ago about the solid one-third of the U.S. population that has chosen to label traditional American political values as leftist extremism, and embraced authoritarianism as the “conservative” alternative. But not everyone has accepted that seismic shift in the political playing field. Some of us never will.
The instant angst over giving the general public a say in questions we address to candidates illustrates the degree to which that one-third resides, not just in a reality-averse bubble, but in a digitally enhanced, stone fortress of fantasy.
Penetrating those walls is an all-hands-on-deck task, and let’s face it, perhaps unachievable.
Still, as an (ahem) incurable optimist, I am among those who look at that fortress and instead of slumping away to hide, start thinking about tunneling and aerial bombardment. I am not yet willing to say we’ve reached a place where at least a consensus public embrace of demonstrable truth is out of reach.
But let’s be honest: You can see it from here. We’ll just keep doing our best to keep it on the horizon.
Ron Judd's column appears on Wednesdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: roncjudd.