Dear Editor:

"Politics breeds demagogues - politicians and media pundits alike. Demagogues seek influence and political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, and expectations of the public. They do not enlighten; they browbeat and play rhetorical games." - retired Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX.)

The inability of elected leaders to actually articulate and follow principles, any principles, is maybe the biggest reason people hate politicians. This frustration is why few people show up to public meetings or become active in civics. It increases voter apathy and is a significant cause of low voter turnout. Unfortunately, this attitude by voters gives rise to more demagogues.

Whether a voter is Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, other political party, or independent, he should insist that a candidate articulate and follow a set of principles that voters can later hold the candidate accountable to. For political parties that set of principles is generally their Party's platform. For Republican voters, that means they expect candidates bearing the Republican label will make decisions that are fiscally responsible, obey the Constitution, respect personal liberty, support free markets, and let people take responsibility for their own lives.

Demagogues enjoy taking a principled stand by the proponents of liberty and reason, and then grossly distorting the truth to make it sound like it supports something ugly and mean. If one suggests that candidates should support their own Party's platform, they will twist it into some sort of personal agenda by a "party boss" who is completely uncompromising and non-cooperative, give the impression he is commanding all candidates follow his every instruction. They tend to use fear tactics, and say if you don't follow their plan you will be responsible for unemployment, dwindling property values and shrinking public services. They will give dire warnings that the community will slide backwards and slowly die. They will try to convince you that all these things will happen if you don't have 'smart' people to take care of you, and that only they can provide the 'wisdom' to rule over us.

Perhaps one way to identify the demagogues before you vote is to ask candidates a few simple questions:

Question #1: "As a candidate, what is your standard of principles that will guide your decision-making once you are in office?"

Question #2: "Do you think government can do anything it wants, pass any law or ordinance it wants, tax and spend on whatever purpose it wants, so long as a majority of its members agree to it?"

Question #3: "If not, then what standard tells members of government what they are allowed and not allowed to do?"

The principled candidate will embrace the Rule of Law, be transparent about what he stands for, and allow himself to be held accountable to it. The demagogue will hide from all these things.

John Pickerill