I’m a card-carrying Republican. The fact that I once voted for a Democrat, a left-leaning partisan, or even a lightly scented Liberal will come as a shock to most. It is such a well-known fact that this headline’s mere suggestion probably caused close to 100 unsuspecting kinsfolk (my father included) to faint and whack their heads on the floor. But I whole-heartedly continue to support the evil blood-sucking habits of capitalism and a fervent oppression of the downtrodden. I figure I’m tolerated by my friends mostly because Liberals ‘round here often favor the ADA, and its defense of me and other Right-Wingers: the presumed blind, deaf, and/or mentally weak.
But regardless of party affiliation, one thing I happily share with my opinionated brethren and sistren is a keen nostalgia for Election Day. Though I’m marginally okay with the mail-in ballots Washington state has adopted, I sincerely miss the voting booth.
As a kid I always loved going to the polling place with mom: blue or red velvety curtains, and a crypt-like silence broken only by the “popping” sound of twenty-five stylus tips, punching out an election card concerto. And no matter where we traveled, there was a uniformity to the poll workers ensuring the sanctity of the process. I was convinced by age ten that if you ever wanted to be a signature-checker, there were four very important prerequisites: (1) perfectly honed inverted reading skills; (2) a birthdate in the early 1900’s; (3) a weigh-in at barely under 250; and (4) a pair of diamonette-encrusted cat-eye glasses. Somehow just knowing that countrywide there were people shaking in fear at the possibility that their signatures would be rejected by the squinting, distrustful eye of Gertrude Spinstershieizer made the experience feel all the more patriotic. Mom always let me come into the booth with her. Always. Our legs would poke out below the curtain, which she whisked around us like a surgeon ready to perform delicate brain surgery. She would check and double-check each choice before dutifully turning the little page for the next race. Mother did not leave ANY hanging chads.
I vividly recall my first presidential election, which was the last time I voted for a Dem. It was a crisp fall day in 1976. Well yes, I realize I was five. But my kindergarten class was participating in Scholastic’s presidential election, and we didn’t know the meaning of the word “mock.” Perhaps it was the colossal blue capsule that had mysteriously appeared at school that week which made the lasting impression It may have been conjoined and painted appliance boxes, but no matter; the shroud of mystery and iconic likeness to the blue velvet curtain was overwhelming. There were big white letters that announced our clandestine futures: LITTLE FRIENDS: VOTE HERE! (The preschoolers didn’t vote. They didn’t read. Back in those days, you had to be able to read to vote.)
And then there was the media.
Oh come on, you knew I was going to blame the media at some point. I had dutifully saved Scholastic’s “Special Election Edition” for two whole weeks, a lifetime for a Kindergartener. Inside was a nice color photo and write-up of each presidential candidate in side-by-side columnar commentary. An equally newsworthy article distracted me. It bore a photo of Kermit from Sesame Street and announced his debut on a new “Muppet Show.” I read that piece over and over again.
When it was finally time to vote, I ducked into the monolith to discover a student desk with two stark items: a ballot with envelope, and a baby food jar holding tiny eraserless pencils. “I can’t make a mistake,” I thought.
It was at this very moment that I realized I had failed to actually make a choice regarding my preferred candidate. I had no predilections concerning party, and that damned frog article distracted me one too many times. I painfully made an uninformed choice, sealed it up, and deposited it in the shoe box outside.
As Mom and I fixed dinner, Dad watched the news as the returns started coming in. Conversation eventually turned to my little election:Mom: So, how did the voting go? Me: Pretty good. I think I made a good choice. Mom: Oh? Who did you vote for? Me: Mom! It’s a secret! Mom: Okay, you’re right. Me: (pause … very momentary pause) It was that one guy, Mom. Not the bald one. Mom: Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter? Me: I don’t know. Mom: Republican or Democrat? Me: The skinny one, Mom. Dad: WHAT!? What are they teaching that kid? Mom: Oh, that’s nice honey. Why did you pick Jimmy Carter? Me: Well, Mom, because. He was cuter.
Yep. That’s the rationale I was reduced to. “Which guy should I pick to lead our country: the skinny one with the bushy hair or the totally bald guy bulging out of his double-breasted rust blazer?”
The scary thing is, I’m not all too convinced that this isn’t a great method to use on national elections. I still believe in local politics – but national politicos make me wanna barf in my purse most of the time. I mean hey – I picked the third place NCAA bracket in my office two years ago based solely on the Vegas odds, which I managed to read exactly backwards, and by breaking all toss-ups based on my favorite team mascots. So why shouldn’t I just pick our national leaders in some equivalent manner? It doesn’t seem to matter which ones I vote for, or which ones get elected; they all become the same mass of homogenous luke-warm milk toast. Total barfola.
So this election I had the chance to focus on local politics, which I genuinely value, and it has me all geared-up for the next presidential election. I’m watching the next two years with great interest. And if I don’t see someone with some chutzpah step out of the crowd and take stock in what’s going on around here, then by 2012 I just might revert to my frog-loving five year-old genius and pick a candidate based on cuteness.
Don’t read the frog article, America. Do your work. And then, get out there and VOTE. Happy Election Day!