Of late, the Cape leadership has been consumed in a discussion about freedom speech. While impassioned and necessary, the conversation has kind of missed the point. The question should not just be if there are standards of speech that public officials should be held to, but rather why we elect people whose speech prompts the question in the first place. From where I sit, it is far more productive to redirect the energy being spent debating limits on speech to identifying, vetting and supporting better candidates for public office.
In my experience, anyone running for public office will tell you, if asked, who they are. Their words may or may not honestly depict their core values, but their record almost always does. If you take the time, and make the effort, you can learn what you need to know to make informed votes for candidates for local offices. It is also my experience that the more extreme a candidate’s views are, the more likely they are to tell you, and tell you, and tell you exactly who they are and what they are about. Given that, there is absolutely no reason to be surprised when someone with radical views, from either side of the spectrum, is elected and starts to spout off. If you are surprised, it generally means you didn’t do your homework.
As spring town elections approach, now is a good time to build good voter habits. Take a few minutes and learn who is on your local election ballots. Support the candidates whose values and priorities best fit the needs of your community. An informed electorate will elect candidates whose presence in office will eliminate the need to have an endless and unproductive conversation about how to muzzle someone’s offensive speech. Kept out of public office, the offensive comments can be relegated to the echo chamber of online chat rooms.