Acquiring the essential information means getting answers to questions about, for example, the candidates' views on the proper role of government. Thus, what I have in mind is a series of questions that every candidate and voter should answer. This applies to all candidates and voters, whatever their gender, race, religion, or opinion about whether the newly elected president should wear blue jeans when taking the oath of office.
While I don't claim the following list of questions on key topics is exhaustive, I do believe it will produce the information we need to be able to vote intelligently.
Government: Does the candidate believe that the day town governments began collecting garbage, or the day the federal government began regulating air traffic, was the day when government went too far?
Economics: Does the candidate agree that 99 percent of Americans have a genuine grievance against the top 1 percent of income earners? Or should it be 98 percent against 2 percent?
International relations: Does the candidate think that foreign affairs are none of our business because affairs are a personal matter?
Judiciary: In choosing potential justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, would a candidate insist on nominees who intend to rely on the original intent of the authors of the Constitution - even if that means determining what their original intent was regarding the Internet?
Balanced ticket: If a candidate is lesbian, should she require her vice presidential running mate to be gay?
Patriotism: Does the candidate believe that serving meat loaf instead of turkey for Thanksgiving is traitorous?
Values: Would you refuse to vote for a candidate who is an ardent advocate of fidelity and also commits adultery once or twice a week? If so, is that because you think such a candidate is hypocritical, or because you are concerned he may not have enough time to run the country?
Science: Consider the following statement: "The sun rises in the east and sets in the west." Does the candidate think it is scientific gibberish?
Consistency: Does a candidate who rejects any or all of the programs he recently supported as a lobbyist do so because he has an open mind?
Gun control: If a candidate is certain that every citizen has a constitutional right to own a gun, does it follow that every family has a right to possess a howitzer?
Education: Should all students in grades K-6 be required to blog daily?
Tolerance: Would the candidate refuse to debate another candidate who walks on his knuckles?
Third parties: (1) Should a tea-party candidate be required to have an annual pretax income of at least $100 million? (2) Should an Occupy Wall Street candidate be permitted to maintain a pup tent in New York's Zuccotti Park to serve as his or her national campaign headquarters?
Immigration: If the answers to these questions convince some voters that none of the candidates should be elected president, should those voters be deported until the 2016 election?
Seymour I. "Spence" Toll is a Philadelphia lawyer and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.