Life in the Box: Candidate Tests?


Americans made a mistake in this past Presidential election. They voted for a man based on his attitude, rather than his knowledge. They intentionally chose a guy that knew (knows?) not much about government, other than that he wants to get rid of it.   

I hold the opinion that instead of having debates between the Presidential candidates, we should have quiz shows, along the lines of Jeopardy! ™ I have been pondering this since the Republicans went wild for Sarah Palin. She’s not the smartest kid on the block. Neither is Trump. What were Republicans thinking??

Topics on my imaginary candidate quiz shows would include American History, Government, and World History with maybe a sprinkling of Geography and Current Events. The purpose would be to assure voters that their candidate knows something about what they are getting involved in.

And maybe each candidate would have to pass a government test in order to run for office—like we all have to take a driver’s exam before getting a driver’s license. What are the parameters of the office you want? How is it managed? What are the laws and procedures you have to follow? What can you do and what can’t you do? How does your job fit in the “big picture”?

If the candidate can’t get at least a “C” grade on this test, they can’t run for office!

And to take it to the next level, not only would the candidates have to take that test… so would the voters! I know, that’s harsh, but what if there was an educational push that lifted minds?

I just found out that America used to administer tests to prevent African-Americans and immigrants from voting, similar to today when states pass restrictive “Voter’s ID” laws. Those laws are intended to make it easier for white Republicans to win, but that’s a misuse of power, and not what I’m intending here. 

So, my imagination is working on a more inclusive idea, maybe not a test for voters, but some sort of encouragement to be an educated voter. Could we find a fair way to prompt voters so they no longer enter the booth without at least minimal knowledge of how government is set up and why it exists? They might find out that some things that they take for granted aren’t true. They might have a better sense of where their taxes go. They might even have more respect for government. I know I’m fantasizing, here, but let’s continue for a moment…   

I can imagine a strong educational component to this, with classes and discussions held on all media and in all neighborhoods, with hand-outs and interpreters and music and poetry. Learning parties! Paid for by a percentage of the advertising monies spent by candidates. Put that money to good use! Educate the public on what their votes are creating.

Door-to-door knocking and educating. I like the thought! Spread the word that government isn’t a business—it’s a heritage made “of and for the people.”  America was built by thoughtful people who cared about an informed public getting a say. How can it be that the “information age” is making so many people so angry that they only vote for angry candidates? 

Getting back to vetting the candidates–did those who voted for Trump project their own intelligence and values on a man that didn’t know up from down? Did they really want someone uninformed in that office? Please say no. But if so, shouldn’t we (presumed smart people) protect them from their own ignorance?

A candidate test might vaccinate America from posers pretending to know more (or less) than they actually do. At this point, I’m desperate for remedies for the duo ailments of the misinformation virus and the freedom from smartness flu.

Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, narrating and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and life issues, both inside and outside the box. Her opinions are her own, and are not necessarily those of this web site. 

How to vet candidates at the precinct level: Precinct Project  

Salon blogger Sean Illing thinks Trump “pretends to be stupid and angry because that’s what stupid and angry people like.”   

Misuse of testing — “Literacy Tests” of the past 

Credit for hurdle photo: Seattle Municipal Archives, 1942 Civil service police exam hurdle test