Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Thursday, January 08, 2004  

Will Thomson, a news producer for "Vote by Issue," sent me a heads up this morning about a project the NewsHour and WBUR are jointly producing. It's designed to separate issues from personalities. To that end, they've created a quiz about 14 issues, and then had the candidates answer them. You can go through and select which answer you like, and see which candidate most agrees with you.

The quiz portion takes an awfully long time, and it's difficult to distinguish between so many of the answers that you'll go bleary-eyed before you finish. However, you can also by candidate or issue--and here the site becomes pretty valuable (though in either case you'll be surprised how similar the responses are).

Also useful is seeing the language of each answer. Going back to an argument I made six or eight months ago, positive sounds a lot better than negative. Listen to these two responses, which are substantively the same:

The Bush tax cuts are a disaster; they've given us the worst deficits in our history. I will repeal all of them and start over, reforming our tax code so that it is fairer, doesn't punish hard work and doesn't subsidize corporations who harm our environment or export jobs.

As president I will work to make tax policy fair to working people. I will repeal Bush's tax cuts, simplify the tax system and close loopholes that encourage U.S. companies to operate abroad. I will work with Congress to provide tax incentives for investments and savings, and will direct incentives toward infrastructure, the environment, and manufacturing.

The first is Dean, which you may have expected. It's not a bad answer, but it highlights the fault of the President more than it offers a solution for fixing the problem. The second response is by Carol Mosely Braun. Her language identifies the cause of the problem--the Bush tax cuts--but offers several real solutions. It's fine to throw out red meat sometimes--it's better to enrich it will substance.

This will definitely be a site to watch when we come down to the general elections, though. Then the choices will be clear and distinct. And the quiz will be fast--useful for the electorate it was aimed at.

posted by Jeff | 3:00 PM |
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