This was a fun experiment.
I posted on-line and sent to New Jersey Congressional candidates identifying as Republican/Conservative/Libertarian my "Conservative Questionnaire for Primaries 2010." You can read the questions here.
The questions are designed to elicit responses on a wide range of topics. However, there is a not-so-hidden thread: At least 75% of the questions have to do with the reach of government power. The Tea Partiers being as influential as they are right now, it is appropriate to measure a candidate's tolerance/intolerance for government power this year.
The rules for candidates were simple - answer the questions and receive the "Justified Right Seal of Approval." Refuse to answer and receive the "Justified Right Seal of Disapproval."
Is the "Seal of Approval" an endorsement of a candidate or the candidate's answers? Not at all. Every time I wrote "Seal of Approval" it was made clear the approval was for having the forthrightness with voters to answer. I didn't judge the answers. That's for the voters to do, and I thought the candidates might not wish to answer if I were to act as an editorial bully and tear at their responses.
Conversely, the "Seal of Disapproval" does not mean I disagree with a candidate or the candidates views. It means only that I'm disappointed they wouldn't answer. They may very well get my endorsement in November should they prevail in June (assuming, of course, that they've made their views clear enough that I can be confident I'm endorsing a small government conservative).
So why do I have my emphasis on simply answering? Because this year is a VERY different election year, the likes of which we haven't seen since 1980.
The usual m.o. of any candidate, as many an angry Republican emailer pointed out to me this week, is to "say as little as possible to offend as few people as possible." "No need to give the Democrats in the general election anything to use," so the usual "politics 101" goes.
But is that what the pollsters are telling us this year? No - they are telling us exactly the opposite. This is the "year of the message!" See, as an example, respected pollster Adam Geller talking about the importance of message by clicking here.
And why doubt the national Tea Party wave? From Chris Christie to Scott Brown, candidates who are bringing message and not ambiguity are winning.
Here's an historical example: Ronald Reagan stated his conservative views unequivocally, and the more he stated them, the more popular he grew.
But alas, the New Jersey Republican establishment - a docile RINO heard grazing in a field of mediocrity, still wants conservatism to be silent or whispered. This is New Jersey after all, where Democrats are Democrats and so are Republicans.
They complained that questionnaires elicit "sound bites" which makes for bad policy. Actually, that's not true. Sound bites lead to persuasion, which in turn lays the groundwork for winning elections. See, e.g., "Hope and Change." Devoid of substance for sure (ours don't have to be) but can anyone tell me what McCain's message was? Didn't think so. Small messages persuade; long messages bore. For a related experiment I conducted on that issue, click here.
But more importantly, this isn't a check mark "yes or no" questionnaire. There is no limit on words, and the candidates are permitted to write as much or little as they wish to make a point.
Some answered. Some ignored. One candidate called me and stated the FBI has been notified because I posted a link to the questionnaire to the candidate's Face Book page (I have my doubts about that candidate's affinity for small, unobtrusive government).
So today I raise a glass to those who answered, for maintaining the courage of their commitment. Those who have received the "Justified Right Seal of Approval" for being open enough with voters to answer a few questions, are these:
Linda Biamonte, District 2
Justin Michael Murphy, District 3
Anna C. Little, District 6
David Larsen, District 7
Lon Hosford, District 7
Sergey Shevchuk, District 9
Dave Corsi, District 12
As for the rest of you New Jersey Congressional Candidates, for not answering the questions, you have earned yourself the "Justified Right Seal of Disapproval."
There are only 3 possible reasons why you didn't answer:
A. You missed what is happening in the rest of the country, failing to realize that the Conservative message wins, and are clinging to the old 3 monkey rule of seeing, speaking and hearing no evil, and unfortunately, seeing, speaking and hearing nothing good, either. Or...
B. You're a RINO. You know that the conservative message is winning and you don't have one. Your planning on letting your liberal views be known as votes come before you. Or...
C. You're betting that ignoring New Jersey's most widely read political blogger won't hurt you later.
Hopefully, your reason is C. There's always time to fix that one.
So what's next? I'd like to see everyone fill out the "Conservatism Questionnaire for Primaries 2010." It's a real test of who is or isn't a conservative. It will be fun to see what the blogging class really stands for- who is real and who is posing.
I may even post my own answers.