By Jennifer Hicks

At the Cass County gubernatorial debate, Breland Ridenour raised a question which I thought was interesting. He asked, “What does the right candidate look like?” Well, the truth is that by the political standards which we have used in the past, the answer to that question—which almost ANY of us would give—is, “Not me.” We would likely follow up that line of reasoning with statements such as, “I don’t have the money it would take to win,” or “I don’t know enough to do the job,” or “I’m not qualified.” Or maybe we tell ourselves that we don’t look the part or that we aren’t eloquent enough in our speaking. As a t-shirt and jeans girl who doesn’t even own makeup, I am pretty sure that the GOP would take one look at me and say, “Not her.” But whose job is it to answer the question of what the “right candidate” looks like?

The fact of the matter is that if we want to bring about real change—the kind of change that is going to be necessary to save us from a political system that leaves the people without any representation in their government—we are going to have to break through the kind of “stinking thinking” (credit to Jovan Hutton Pulitzer for coining that phrase) that career politicians have conditioned us to accept. “We the people” have GOT to take back our rightful place in government, and we cannot do that until we flip the prevailing way of doing politics on its head. We have been conditioned by career politicians to think that a candidate is only as “viable” or as “credible” as his or her pockets are deep. This belief that a candidate must be able to afford to buy his or her way onto the ballot is a belief that devalues the role of the voters. We currently have a GOP (both locally and nationally) which operates as a bookie operation of picking winners and losers. They believe that it is THEY who should determine which candidates get presented to the voters to decide upon. They want to be the ones who decide what the “right candidate” looks like, and they operate in a way which sets up political paywalls that keep the voters from having access to ALL of the candidates who are applying for the job. 

As I have often said before, running for office is a job interview process. The candidates are asking to work for the people and to be their voice in government. We have been conditioned by establishment politicians to believe that it is the candidates who get to set the terms of engagement with the voters. But this should not be the case. Voters MUST reclaim their rightful role in the proper relationship between voters and candidates. The voters MUST acknowledge that it is their right to be the ones who set the terms of engagement between the candidates and “we the people.” And as applicants who are seeking the job of being a public servant and representative of the people, the candidates MUST submit to the interview process. Candidates who believe that they are above having to submit to the interview terms, as set by the voters, should promptly be shown the door. There should also be no interference from a meddling and money-hungry GOP. It is the voters who get to decide what the “right candidate” looks like. 

As someone who has never had any political aspirations, I have been trying to appeal to others who might be interested in the job to step up and become a voice for the people. Instead of those who have the minds of career politicians, we need to seek out those who have the hearts of public servants to be our representatives in government. And when no one else is being a representative for us, then we have to find a way to become our own representatives, even if that means getting onto the field as candidates ourselves. 

So my appeal to voters is this—recognize your value and the power that you hold. Don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t yours. Those who would seek to keep you hostage to a failed system of politics (which values you only by your monetary worth) are the very people who stand to lose the most if you find your voice and reclaim your rightful place in government. Show the establishment elites that you don’t need them to spoon-feed you whatever it is that THEY decide should be put upon your plate. And don’t forget that our government is meant to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. That includes YOU. And me. And anyone else who wishes to participate in the process. You have every right to insert your voice, and I would appeal to all of you that, if you are not hearing your own voice echoed or amplified by those whom are supposed to be your representatives, then please consider entering the field as a candidate and filling that void. Our voices can wield so much power, but the silence of our elected representatives has left us powerless. We need good people to step up and be willing to amplify the voices of conservatives in government, and we also need good people to step up and challenge those who have failed us. We have to raise the bar on what it means to be a servant of the people. 

It is the voters who get to decide what the “right candidate” looks like.  

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