Birney Imes: Political endorsements

October 26, 2010 10:00:00 AM

Birney Imes - [email protected]


If you''ve ever run a business, chances are you''ve had to conduct a job interview. As a manager, the decisions about the people you put in positions of responsibility are among the most consequential you make for your company. 


In most cases all you have to go on is a resume, references and an interview. In these litigious times, references aren''t always forthcoming; a resume tells you little more than where they''ve been and how long they stayed there. Your best shot at determining a job candidate''s suitability is the interview. 


There are books on the subject. Online websites offer interview questions: Tell me your strengths. Your weaknesses? What''s your biggest workplace success? Failures? 


Those kinds of questions can be revealing, but I like to talk about something non-job related. If they grew up here, I''ll ask them something about their high school experience or their neighborhood; I''ll try to find someone we know in common, who their folks are. 


In that brief encounter we''re trying to assess their intelligence, sense of humor, work ethic. I want to understand their story -- why they are here -- to figure out if they consider this job merely a place to hang their hat until something better comes along or if they might stay awhile. 


The process is not unlike our visits with political candidates in election season. 


During the 2007 statewide elections, we made the decision to try to talk with every candidate and make an endorsement in every race. We did so because we thought the process would give us a better understanding of the candidates and them of us. And we felt our readers would benefit from our endorsements. 


Before you jump to criticize, bear with me a minute longer. 


Those visits with office seekers are a lot like job interviews. We have the candidate for only a short time during which we ask pointed questions. In those very brief encounters, we try to assess the candidate''s intelligence, his knowledge of the issues and his constituency and what I think is too often overlooked, his independence. 


When asked why he wandered the streets of Athens in daylight carrying a lantern, the Greek philosopher Diogenes replied that he was looking for an honest man. We in our candidate interviews are looking for an independent man. 


Sad but true, there aren''t a lot of independent thinkers seeking office. We all want a representative who is effective, but I think we want someone who is strong enough, independent enough to stand up against a Joe McCarthy or who will oppose a wrongheaded war despite popular support for it. 


When readers agree with us -- as in the case of our endorsement of Haley Barbour for governor -- we hardly hear a peep. When they don''t, it''s a different story. 


Monday a man I occasionally sit with in a local meat-and-three restaurant bristled with anger over our endorsement of Travis Childers in Sunday''s paper. He refused to make eye contact with me. 


The Dispatch -- or any other newspaper, for that matter -- does not decree who will win an election. As a voter, that is your decision and responsibility. We interview the candidates and tell you who we think will do the best job and why. We make a recommendation; you, the voters, make the actual hiring decision. 


If you don''t like our choice, write us a letter and tell readers why they should vote for the other candidate. Tell us why you disagree with us. We''ve had our say; we think you should have yours. Differences of opinions stimulate thinking; we educate one another through our differences. If we all thought alike, I don''t suppose there would be a need for elections, or for that matter, government. 


Do we presume to think our endorsement influences voters? Probably not much. Do we think it fosters discussion and increased voter turnout? I''d like to think so. 


Someone at this paper Monday questioned why we made an endorsement that, as he put it, would "piss off 70 percent of our readers." The question is not who you are potentially going to make angry -- hey, folks, it''s only an opinion: you like the Dawgs; I like the Black Bears; can''t we still be friends? -- it''s should we make endorsements in the first place. 


I believe you, the reader, are better served if we do so. Agree or disagree with us, if you like. Write us a letter. But more importantly, on Tuesday go to the polls and vote. 


Birney Imes is the publisher of The Commercial Dispatch. E-mail him at [email protected] 












Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.