Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Elections and campaigns

I really want to thank those of you whom have recently commented about the inability to select a candidate this early in the campaign. I have really, really, had it wrong for 55 years, and I am not sure at this late date in my life I will be able to learn how to do this thing, called voting, correctly.

You see, I thought that, at least in part, some of the reason for a campaign is so that voters can get to know about the candidates, and have opportunities to become more informed about the candidates' views on various issues. I thought the campaign is a way for people to learn about the candidate as a person as well as a politico. I thought that the decision is cast on voting day (election day usually, but not always) and until then it does not matter which candidate I support, if I do not vote, the candidate will not have that vote in support of election... Isn't that how it works, or have I missed something here?

So, this early in the campaign/election season, why would we be asking people to make a decision about supporting just one candidate? I want to take as many as I can out for a test drive...

It is true that candidates need to have a base of support, and that comes from many, many places: family, friends, cohorts, political cronies, political parties being just a few places. People with or without funds or other means of support who are like minded. But just because I like a candidate at the beginning of campaign season does it mean I will eventually like that candidate at the end. For example, it might be like working in a campaign for a candidate who is known to change his mind, or be "wishy-washy" only to discover the campaign is disorganized. Both of those things would tell me that I can expect this person to be a little disorganized and wishy-washy in the way he conducts business, be it commercial business or the business of governing....Okay, lesson learned, maybe this is NOT the candidate I want to support....

Several years ago we had a mayoral race in which there were 2 candidates I considered "the lesser of all evils." (It was a crowded race.) I was not markedly in favor of one or the other, felt I could be satisfied with either who was elected. I voted early. In Texas, you can vote early for any reason, just show up at an early voting place in your county and vote....(It's made very easy.) I voted early. Early voting usually ends 5 or so days before election day. Not always. In this election, in the final days of the campaign (after I had voted early) the one of two candidates I did not vote for engaged in some campaign tactics, that for me, would have decisively helped me to decide against him. (He was making some personal attacks against an opponent (the candidate I voted for) and his family. I was appalled, but apparently, many of my neighbors believed what turned out to be lies about the attacked candidate.) I was not smug about the fact I had chosen correctly, but knew if I had voted after these tactics came out, I would not have had any trouble making up my mind. Well, the candidate I voted for lost, so obviously there were people who did not care about the other candidate's tactics, and he was elected, anyway. It was a close race, and the winner used tactics at the end of the campaign he thought would give him the edge. They did. As it turned out, these tactics were an accurate indicator of his character, and he did not get re-elected. But, deciding early prevented me from having all the information the entire campaign would afford, had I waited.

Or, what about supporting more than one candidate. Sure, many people who do so are "hedging their bets" in hopes of currying favor with whomever wins, but what if someone genuinely likes parts of each person's platform. The reality is, it is highly unlikely that any one candidate will represent everything just the way you like it.. So, you pledge your support with an acknowledgement of "I am supporting you because of X but I dislike your stance on Y. Your candidacy may get more or less support from me depending on how you prioritize these issues."

Lets face it, campaigns are run by professionals. But, many of the professionals will move on to another campaign, or another issue, as time goes by. Hopefully, the professionals work for candidates with whom they have some political/issues alignment. But does this always happen? I am skeptical.. And, many of the "professionals" work on the campaign in hopes of returned favor if their candidate is elected. So, what's in it for me is more than just having an elected official who represents me, what's in it for me is that I expect a pay off for me.

Sure, the campaigns rely on financial donations and volunteer workers' support. Some of those same people get out and work, or donate, year after, and they change allegiances as circumstances require. Others are attracted to one issue, sometimes year after year. Others are attracted to a candidate but not to a candidate every year, in every election. So, as times and circumstance change, support changes. This is true during a campaign and in each campaign.

What I really dislike about political campaigns any more is the extremely large amounts of money that is spent. It is a little like fiscal responsibility is suspended during campaigning... I always wish that this kind of funding could be channeled into social programs. But, I wish that about a lot of different kinds of finances.

So, okay candidate, court me. I admit it, I have no plan to make a decision early in the Presidential election campaign for a candidate. I may even change my party affiliation. I have done that before, to vote in a hotly contested primary in which I have an interest....

The point is, if I really had to make up my mind today, we would be having an election today. The election is in November. As long as I decide by voting day, and vote, I have done a part. If I decide now, if everyone decides now, that nullifies the campaign.

I understand that if I decide early, and work for a candidate, I can help to influence other people to decide the same way I have decided. The truth is, in many elections, the ultimate difference for me between candidates is minimal: I do not trust any of them. I think most can not deliver on their election promises, even if they want to and mean well. And, I think most people in elected positions make decisions based on "what's in it for me." It may be personal profit and gain, moral satisfaction, pay off, idealistic alignment, additional support from constituents or cronies, ego boosts, fame, notoriety. While people may get into politics because of their love of this country and its governing process, I suspect their motivations for their decisions come from elsewhere. Consequently, it is very difficult for me to promote one candidate over another. I do not "love" one candidate over another. I think they are all flawed, and subject to good and bad.

So yes, I tend to be undecided, unless I am going to vote "against" a candidate. Otherwise, poll me until voting day, and I will poll undecided. Even if I do know for whom I plan to vote, I will poll undecided....It is, after all, my prerogative to participate in a secret ballot!

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1 Comments:

Anonymous steffi said...

Joyce, what a great lesson in life! When we are confused and overloaded, maybe the best solution is to simply unplug for a while!!

March 15, 2008 10:19 AM  

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