I have come to embrace the James Otis Test as a means of evaluating candidates for office. I described that test in my book Documenting America. Here it is again.
The only principles of public conduct that are worthy of a gentleman are to sacrifice estate, ease, health, and applause, and even life, to the sacred calls of his country. These...sentiments in private life make the good citizen; in public life the patriot and the hero.
That's easier said than followed. How can we tell if a candidate for any office—president, representative, city council—is willing to sacrifice estate, ease, health, applause, and life to the sacred calls of his country? That's not an easy determination. However, I think I can tell which candidate considers serving in the office to be a sacred call. If that's all I can fathom, that will have to suffice as a basis for decision making.
The other principal that guides me is to put aside the politics of personal gain. I don't want to consider what's best for me, but what's best for my city, county, state, and nation. Maybe I'd be better off with the cost of my health care shared among three hundred million people, and have someone from the government watch after every aspect of my life. But I cannot believe that's better for America.
So I will be voting for initiatives that will lead us toward a more sober view of the world around us, that will keep us on the march toward economic freedom, which is what most set America apart from all other nations. I will vote for those who I believe will rein in uncontrolled spending, who will steer our people away from a sense of entitlement rather than toward it and thus toward a sense of personal responsibility, who will make reversing our plunge into unpayable debt a priority, and who will take a hundred year vision to their office, not just to the next election, and won't ask that future generations pay so that no one in this generation will be in want.