Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Sign of the Times

Most of the lawn signs have been pulled from the ground and tossed in the back of somebody's pickup truck. The fall landscape is much prettier now, and I sure hated seeing those political pleas muck up our town as much as the next guy.

But because my candidate -- for whom I made phone calls, threw a fund-raiser, passed out fliers, knocked on doors and waved like an idiot to potential voters -- didn't win, the absence of the signs is adding to my sadness.

Or maybe it's not the signs. I think what's really pushed me into a post-election funk is my disappointment in the way Farmington voters clearly chose not to think about each candidate before filling in those little bubbles, but instead voted along party lines. My unproven theory is this: Because the Democratic challenger to the incumbent Republican Town Council Chair ultimately became a formidable opponent and a serious threat to the 60-year GOP monopoly in town, the Republican party mobilized. As it should have. They organized, they worked hard and they got out the vote. Fine.

What's irking me is this: Despite the fact that one particular Republican candidate for town council who has been called a racist, a sexist and an embarrassment by his own Republican colleagues, was voted smoothly back into office. He's got "ethics issues" and a tendency to say inappropriate things at inappropriate times. I can easily say that despite the fact that I'm a registered Democrat I would not have voted for him if he was on our Democratic ticket.

But Republican voters came out to fight and they won. I don't begrudge them their win. I do, however, take issue with supporting a candidate for no reason other than the letter R that follows his name. This was not a case of choosing the lesser of evils, which we've all experienced in higher level elections. There were plenty of good candidates from which to choose.

How divided are we to become?

On election day I sat next to the teenaged daughter of a former Republican council member for a three-hour "unofficial poll checker" shift. We both knew we were on opposite sides of the day's battle, but we worked together as a team, helping each other check off voters on our respective lists. We chatted, made each other laugh and made the tedious job go by quickly. As one Republican candidate said to me later in the day, when I was telling him how much I enjoyed hanging out with my Republican counterpart, he said "You were both there for the same reason. After the election, we've all got to work together as a team."

He's right. But it seems like some of us keep forgetting that. Do the politicians making daily statements to the press about health care reform understand that we don't care which side of the aisle they're on? We want them to work together to make things better.

I often get very emotional when I vote. I feel a sense power but mostly a sense of gratitude. I am grateful to the women who worked so hard almost 90 years ago to make it possible for me to cast my vote for the candidates who best represent me and my ideals. It sure would be great if every voter would take that right -- that privilege -- as seriously every time they fill in those little bubbles.

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