Friday, August 8, 2014

Avoiding the Process

Sarah Garrecht Gassen called them out on Thursday.  Writing her weekly, bylined, column in the Arizona Daily Star, she laid the responsibility - dare I say blame? - for the sorry state of Arizona politics at the feet of mainstream Republican voters.

They don't turn out to cast their ballots.

Instead, they allow gubernatorial candidates like Christine Jones and Scott Smith and Doug Ducey to pledge No New Taxes and promise to Permanently Seal the Border and Send Obama the Bill. Candidates like Ken Bennett, with real records to stand upon and real plans for the future, are ignored in the more media-friendly outpouring of vitriol.

Who wants to listen to detail when there's screaming all around?

For the details on Arizona, click through to the link.  My interest in the article was less geographic-specific and more global.  Why would anyone opt out of the process?

Perhaps it is generational.  I was 19 when the 26th Amendment was ratified; my college friends were being drafted and sent to Southeast Asia to fight an unpopular war. There was no question but that we would weigh in on our futures.

Even when the choices were unattractive, I took myself to the polls.  I voted for John Anderson and Ralph Nader - twice - not because they were wonderful or had a chance of winning but because my voice needed to be heard.  Little Cuter was in the booth with me when we filled in the circle next to Ralph Nader's name; I cried.

Why? My vote was not wasted; it was cast and counted.  It made no difference in the final outcome, despite Al Gore's insistence that Nader had stolen votes which were rightly his.  I had given up on the outcome months before, didn't want either leading candidate to win, and yet I took myself to the voting booth and submitted my ballot.

It counted.  I participated.  I earned my right to complain.

As Sarah Gassen notes, Arizona's moderate Republicans cannot say the same.  The rest of us are at the mercy of their choice to stay at home, to avoid the process, to let noise triumph discourse.

I don't understand it at all.

I have wonderful memories of entering the curtained booth with the mechanical levers, G'ma at my elbow, her list of approved candidates in her hand.  There were judges and clerks and council members whose records had been scoured.  Decisions had been made, often after rancorous dinner table discussions. With Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton on my other side, I watched her vote.

It made an impact, denizens.  I took my own children into the polling place and allowed them to fill in the optically scanned circles.  I tried to bring a sense of majesty and purpose and responsibility to the process.  I emphasized the responsibility piece ... no voting, no complaining.

Perhaps we could distribute trendy adornments to those who actually make it to the polls.  Tiaras? Blinking neckties? Neck lanyards emblazoned I Did My Civic Duty?  Currently, non-participation carries no penalty; perhaps we should shame the avoiders.

Hester Prynne's Scarlet A comes to mind. At the very least, it would identify those whose opinions I could ignore.

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