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You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

-- Mahatma Gandhi

'Tis the season to be making some decisions, and from the choices before us, some of those decisions might not be too difficult if we can first figure ourselves out. The first test in our quest starts in Arkansas with primary voting on March 1, although early voting is Feb. 15-29.

For me, sorting my priorities comes first. How candidates respond to issues gives me a glimpse at what's at their core, and that core may indicate how they'll behave. The hardest part is first gaining the confidence that what I see and hear is what I'll get. The search, therefore, becomes one for authenticity and trustworthiness, the parents of integrity.

The essence of a person gives those of us who are affected by their decisions and actions the security of predictability. The tricky part, of course, is for politicians to stay true to themselves, not allowing the pressures and temptations of their position to corrupt the ethics they sold us on in the first place. If sell-out happens, the citizen voter feels double-crossed, which poisons the well for all politicians and makes it very hard to not become a cynical citizen.

Looking at a candidate's experience only tells us where they've been, but looking at their voting record tells us what values they've acquired from their experiences, what has influenced them, and how consistent they are. Inconsistency can be as bad in politics as it is in parenting because it causes confusion and distrust in the governed. There's nothing wrong with changing one's mind, but the famous "flip-flop" tag is justifiable when hung upon a candidate we suspect has changed because of political expediency when political winds change. That's when authenticity is lost.

So, from this environmentalist's point of view, these are the top two things on my checklist in determining why I will choose to vote for one candidate over another.

First, of course, is their environmental involvement. To me this means they have been down-in-the-trenches actually trying to change things, not just padding their participation resume. "Oh yes, I'm for that too!" in response to a competitor's environmental ideas and background is just too little too late.

If Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama had actually done what they knew needed to be done regarding climate change, we wouldn't now, 35 years later, face the catastrophic consequences of nonaction. Wanting and needing clean air, water, and soil doesn't make one an idealist; it makes one a realist who knows what both economic and environmental survival require. I want a candidate who comprehends what Cecilia Reyes, an insurance risk specialist, said at the World Economic Forum: "Climate change is exacerbating more risks than ever before in terms of water crises, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker societal cohesion, and increased security risks ... Political conflicts are in turn making the challenge of climate change all the more insurmountable, reducing the potential for political cooperation, as well as diverting resource, innovation and time away from climate change resilience and prevention."

For there to be change, change must be supported. If candidates are labeled as unelectable romantic zealots because they fight for a livable environment, we have indeed surrendered to hopelessness, apathy and laziness.

Secondly, I want a candidate who is actively trying to take the money out of politics. We can never have true democratic representation in government as long as office seekers accept huge money to run huge campaigns. I've never talked to a single person who doesn't agree that money buys influence and that our electoral system is corrupted. Why do we continue to tolerate this? Public funding of campaigns, limits on individual donations, no infusion of unlimited "dark" corporate capital, and absolute transparency of all financial dealings are a few of the answers to this mess. In this current go-round for the presidency, if we truly want to end this insane, wasteful campaign charade, we need to stop being defeatists and put our votes where our beliefs are and vote in our own best interest. Judging candidates is a "follow the money" activity to see if they will divulge information about their coffers of cash. I'm voting for candidates who have taken the least (or none) from the influence buyers with the most.

So check your list twice to find out who's been naughty or nice, and vote for what's right for your values.

Commentary on 02/02/2016

Print Headline: Picking a contender

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