Choosing good candidates, not the ‘lesser evil,’ using the LASER test
Many people have this notion that, during elections, settling for the “lesser evil” and voting for the least bad candidate is a good idea. I disagree. I believe that mindset is wrong. We shouldn’t be settling for the “lesser evil.” Rather, we should be seeking the better choice.
The truth is, our choices are not limited to “evil” and “less evil.” Some candidates are actually good, while others are even better. So it’s more like a spectrum rather than a binary option of “evil” and “less evil.” And the best way of determining who’s “good,” “bad,” and “evil” is to use a standard or rubric against which to measure the traits, qualifications, and pronouncements of candidates.
Dilaab Foundation and Caritas Philippines, through the “I Vote God” (IVG) and “Circles of Discernment for Empowerment” (CiDE) movements, have developed such a standard. In 2008, they came up with the “LASER test.” LASER is an acronym that stands for “lifestyle, accomplishment, support, election conduct, and reputation.” The test is a set of questions that people ask themselves when they participate in a “circle of discernment for empowerment” session. It helps people evaluate who is best to vote for in the coming elections. But more than that, it helps form consciences. So with “lifestyle,” participants ask themselves questions about their candidate’s behavior and values. With “accomplishment,” they ask themselves questions about their candidate’s track records. With “support,” they ask where their candidate’s funds are coming from. With “election conduct,” they think about their candidate’s actions during the campaign period and their stance on issues. And with “reputation,” they reflect on the things that other people say about their candidates. So it’s a very structured and objective way of discerning which candidates are “good,” “bad,” or “evil.” The LASER test finds its inspiration in Luke 6:43-44a: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.”
There’s also something wrong with the attitude of settling for the “lesser evil.” It’s cynical, fatalistic, and myopic. As Christians, we should be more hopeful, optimistic, and far-sighted. Hope is a theological virtue, so hopelessness must be a vice. The more hopeful and positive we are, the more we will see the goodness around us, and the more we will recognize the virtues in others, including those who are running for office. The world of politics is filled with scoundrels and servant leaders alike, and our job as citizens is to distinguish the latter from the former.
We also have a duty to choose only those who are good and competent. Bad and incompetent leaders are disastrous for a country and its people, and there are plenty of examples of that in history. Companies with bad CEOs won’t last long and teams with terrible coaches will keep on losing. In the same way, countries with morally bad and incompetent presidents won’t survive in the long run.
Given the above reasons, it makes more sense not to settle for the “lesser evil.” We should instead be seeking the higher good. That means selecting the better, if not the best, candidate. And the way to do that is to use a standard or framework as a guide for determining who’s good and competent and who’s not, such as the IVG and CiDE’s LASER test.
Dante Cuales Jr.,[email protected]
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