When it comes to voting, most of us aren’t really too interested until after the election when it’s all had time to go to hell. “Well, you voted for it” we remember hearing, which is hardly encouraging. Or an elected official claims that some decision or other requires a vote of the people, the equivalent of Pontius Pilate washing his hands of whatever it is that will likely go to hell. And why, I ask myself, why am I expected to shoulder the responsibility when I’m already paying for someone I probably didn’t vote for to handle it?
Anyway, I’m being asked once again to vote for a bunch of people I don’t know who claim they’d like nothing better than to be given jobs I would never want to do. And who trusts any politician these days anyway? Bear in mind would-be politicians are probably even worse.
But the incessant campaigning, the signs, bumper stickers and radio commercials eventually lead my guilt to overcome my cynicism and I decide I really ought to at least attempt to vote.
So I scan the list of, let’s face it, often ludicrous names on the ballot, each one appearing next to a position that makes no sense. “Sub Commissioner, Library Operations, Position number 3”. Great — so how do I know if “Vermouth Brapplopplegrinder” would be the best person for whatever that is? I know — I’ll check the Voter Pamphlet.
“Pamphlet” suggests a bifold leaflet, trifold if you’re unlucky. But no — this one is the size of a small telephone directory (remember them?) So I leaf through it looking for Brapplopplegrinder, and there she is, alongside a paragraph of self-promotion that sounds vaguely familiar. Sure enough similar paragraphs appear next to photographs of earnest candidates on almost every page, and for every electable position.
Of course, most of the time reading what they have to say is a last resort; best first to judge by appearance. Too young; too surprised looking. Don’t like that moustache. Wearing a hat! Oh come on — nobody has that many teeth in one mouth; prefer it if that one was on the right-hand page. Eventually I manage to find something that makes each successive candidate unacceptable until I can vote for the remaining one. Best not to look to closely at that last one, too. This process means I can never actually feel good about my choice, but at least I can claim satisfaction from having done a few minutes’ arbitrary due diligence.
I select the one who brings people together. Who crosses the aisle when necessary. The position they seek is very important, and their getting it seems inevitable, given their career to-date. Unlike their opponents, they are unlike their opponents. And — most of all — they would really appreciate my vote.
I start to feel empowered, despite myself; I’m electing judges, representatives, councilmembers, a mayor I think, and the 3rd library sub-commissioner. There were also a few others I skipped, but nevertheless, this is democracy in action.
In the days following the election I feel not so much proud as relieved that I went to the effort to vote. Of course, I’m not really interested in the results and I couldn’t really tell you whether any of my guys won or lost. But one day, I may end up before a judge defending my traffic camera ticket and I will be able to say in my defense that I did, in fact, vote for the guy who authorized the remodel of courtroom number 2.