Krauss: An open letter to Vermont voters on the selection of congressional “candidates” | Chroniclers


Dear Vermont constituents,

What are the valid selection criteria that we should use to select Congress candidates?

During the 1970s, orchestras across the United States became concerned that members were not chosen on the basis of their abilities, but handpicked by conductors. They have designed an interesting, new and efficient solution to filter candidates. Auditioning musicians played music behind a curtain. The judges listened to and rated the ability of the musicians regardless of the age, gender and appearance of the musicians. The results? The use of this blind test meant that ability and talent were the decisive selection factors and the participation of women in orchestras increased significantly. The winners? Musicians and an audience listening to the best music played by the best musicians.

Say the people of Vermont decide to screen the Vermont congressional candidates using a similar blind method. Voters occupy one side of the curtain and candidates occupy the other. We do not know their age over 25, who they know, their relationship status, or other irrelevant factors. We can’t see them and they can’t see us; there is no cheerleading, no visual cues, no applause. All applicants receive the same questions on a written form and answer the questions via laptops. However, what exactly are the valid selection criteria that Vermonters should use to select Congressional candidates? We have been taught that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. So maybe we should judge the applicants based on their accomplishments, the problems encountered and overcome, and the solutions they provided to help the people of Vermont. Not what they want to do, but what have they actually done. Oh, and no driver is allowed.

Here are some examples of categories and questions voters might ask candidates.

1. Economy and Jobs – Give us an example of job creation. Tell us what factors made it easier or more difficult to create. What have you done specifically to strengthen your local economy or the Vermont economy? What were the results measured?

2. COVID-19 – What steps have you personally taken to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Vermont? What made it effective? Please share with us how the effectiveness was measured.

3. Education – School boards and citizens of Vermont must respond to concerns such as distance education and curriculum choices. Tell us about a situation where you balanced competing interests. How exactly did you design the process? What factors did you take into account?

4. Healthcare – Describe a healthcare solution or idea you developed for one of Vermont’s current health problems. How did you involve Vermonters / stakeholders in this solution? Name a time when you touched on a facet of the Vermont healthcare system. What exactly did you do?

These categories are not mine. These are the top four questions voters in Virginia considered in their recent election. I live in the rural county of Lamoille and we have the same problems. Should the November elections be decided on the basis of answers to questions like the ones above? Can we select different candidates using this method? Can I add a category and these questions as my biggest concern?

Inflation – The cost of gas, food and utilities is increasing almost daily. What steps and actions have you personally taken to reduce costs for the citizens of Vermont? Tell us how they were effective and what was the real impact on the citizens of Vermont? Please start with rising energy costs.

Let us take a look at the routine problems that our fellow citizens face for a moment. It’s January and you have a frozen water line. Do you care what the plumber looks like when he arrives to thaw your pipe? Should appearance be a selection factor when choosing someone to work in your home or in any other profession? By the way, I bet you’re elated when they knock on your door.

Your car, a “late model vehicle”, has a mechanical problem. You take it to a local mechanic to fix it. Do you consider the religion, gender or race of the mechanic? Or do you care that they can fix your junk for under $ 500?

Your teenage daughter has a medical problem and needs to see a health care professional. Do you choose them according to their age or marital status? Or do you choose them for their attitude at the bedside, the questions they ask, the explanation of treatment options, etc. ?

Openings to Congress are a generational opportunity to choose the best leaders for all Vermonters. Shouldn’t the selection process be at least as fair, rigorous and impartial as choosing a musician in an orchestra? Can we agree that they should not be treated as coronations, rights or political beauty pageants? Should the Vermont media help facilitate open, honest and inclusive discussion? And do we, as voters, have an obligation to spend as much time on the relevant selection factors as we do looking for our plumber, mechanic and health care provider?

Matt Krauss, of Stowe, is a retired government employee and former Vermont lawmaker. Comments are welcome at [email protected] The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.


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