Columnist Daniel Cantor Yalowitz: Honesty, integrity, and investing in local politics

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz



Published: 10-22-2023 6:31 PM

Local, statewide, and national elections will be held two weeks from tomorrow — an annual ritual and rite of passage wherein most adult citizens of the U.S. have the unique opportunity to use their voices and the power of the ballot box as a tool and instrument for change and hope.

We are prudent to do so, and there are a variety of ways to exercise the vote to which we are entitled. On the contrary, not to do so is to vacate “the power of, by, and for the people.” And, with our country more bifurcated than at any point in its and our history, it is an act of wisdom, courage, and rationality for each of us to act on this right, as bequeathed to us by our Constitution.

A cursory viewing of any local newspaper across our country yields insights into the inner workings of what having power over others can do to those holding that power. Not a day goes by when there are no stories of rampant corruption, unethical behavior and activities, clandestine plotting, and indecency, slander, and disrespect. I’d call it “variations on a theme” whereby, according to the 1887 words of Lord Acton of Great Britain, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Anywhere and everywhere we have ample evidence of wrong doings and unethical activity on the part of our political leaders. We have a choice: we can overlook or justify all forms of miscreancy, or we can use the power of voice and ballot for change and the common good. We have earned this human right, and no one and nothing should be able to take it away, under any circumstance.

As we go to vote — whether in-person or via mail, either early or on election day — we would do well to look at what our personal values are, and to sort through how these are best reflected in the candidates who are available for election.

Do we stand for transparency, honesty, and integrity in government as we might in all other walks of life? Does it matter to us if those without a voice and a vote should be given the attention and support that they deserve as fellow humans? How do we recognize and validate a candidate’s “legitimacy?” What draws us to vote for a particular candidate? Whom do we trust, and why?

These are not easy questions for us to pose to ourselves. But, for the sake of bettering ourselves, our families, communities, states, and our nation, we would do well to ponder them and not to be taken in by the power of personality, looks, charisma, or tall promises. Whether the election is for president, Congress, mayor, city council, school committee, or other, we will all be better off if we take time to ruminate about each of these questions.

The local, “off-year” elections of 2023 are no different than other years. We are faced with distinct and highly differentiated candidates for the open positions that are now available. In life, as in politics, there is no perfection: those running for elected office are imperfect, flawed, and challenged in varying ways. And we are wise to take this into account.

Our local candidates possess skills and strengths, along with weaknesses, biases, and shortcomings. Again: whom do you trust to wield the power and control that comes with elected office and use them for the common good? I ask other questions as well: Who listens better? Who responds directly, honestly, transparently? Who understands and addresses the diversity of the area’s demographics? Who is more inclusive in their decision-making processes? Who collaborates with the greatest number of constituencies? And, who is not in this for their ego and the ability to manipulate others?

The more questions we ask, the more the candidates begin to distinguish themselves and their uniqueness. When I ask myself (and others) these questions, it becomes easier to know whom I will vote for, and why. Among other things, I look for honesty, decency, goodness, truth-telling, and open ears. What are you looking for, and how does doing so lead you to the candidate who will receive your vote in two weeks and a day from now? As you process this, remember that the power of our right to vote is what makes a government “Of the people, by the people, and for the people” possible.

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz writes a regular column in the Recorder. A developmental and intercultural psychologist, he has facilitated change in many organizations and communities around the world. He is former chairman of the Greenfield Human Rights Commission and his two most recent books are “Journeying with Your Archetypes” and “Reflections on the Nature of Friendship.” Reach out to him at