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Making a Political Match on Election Day
By Damon Circosta
Published: Apr. 26, 2010
RALEIGH - A quantum shift in the romance department has occurred over the last decade.
While the story of boy-meets-girl is timeless, new approaches like Internet matchmaking and speed dating have become the way this generation seeks companionship. With election season in full swing, candidates seeking a relationship of a different order could learn much from the world of 21st-century romance.
Internet relationship sites and speed dating are opposite approaches to the same challenge. Web sites like Match.com and eHarmony gather a ton of information from their users in order to couple people based on compatible interests and outlook on life. The idea behind these sites is to gain a deep understanding about other singles before committing to a date.
Speed dating takes the opposite tack, bringing people together for very short conversations with other singles. At one speed-date event you can have quick conversations with as many as 20 other singles. Proponents say it’s a numbers game. They think you can learn everything you need to know about a romantic candidate in less time than it takes to use an ATM, so why not chat up as many people as possible?
Currently, most politicians use the speed-dating approach to seek votes. They try to woo us with splashy 30-second commercials and one-liners. In an effort to win the hearts of voters, candidates cast their net far and wide. The message, however, tends not to be very deep. It’s pick-up-line politics.
In an era where we are constantly bombarded with tiny snippets of information, this approach makes sense for the candidate. It is difficult to break through the clutter of everyday life, so politicians do their best to broadcast their message to as many people as possible. It’s a numbers game for them as well.
While the speed-dating technique may be the current trend in campaigning, it can hurt our democracy. In an effort to get out their message to a wide audience, the message is clipped. Your typical political stump speech is no more than a few minutes long and gone are any nuanced policy positions or in-depth discussions of the issues. Even your typical political debate isn’t much more than two candidates trading sound bites. The flaw of both speed dating and speed campaigning is that learning about someone takes time.
Taking a page from Internet dating sites, some candidates are using the Web to distribute a more complete picture of their policy proposals and qualifications. Attracting compatible voters is almost as hard as finding a compatible mate, but with more information available candidates can give voters a more complete picture of their quest for public office.
Of course, we voters have to meet the candidates halfway. We have to be willing to spend the time finding out about the candidates and comparing them to other hopefuls so that we can find a perfect political match.
Tools are available to help those who want a different approach to politics. Local newspapers often provide excellent coverage of candidates and elections. Web sites like www.NCVoterGuide.org help play matchmaker between candidate and voter. In addition to biographies and statements, this online guide includes links to candidate Web sites and other resources to gain a deeper understanding of those who wish to represent us.
Finding love in this world is never easy. Neither is finding the right political candidate. But with a little work and the right approach, both are possible.