Why do we vote for a particular political candidate?
I have (I think) stumbled on what “should” be the answer to that question. We should vote for a candidate that has demonstrated that they will work FOR a community.
Does that seem a bit of a “duh” statement?
It sure did as I was writing it. But my recent experience tells me that isn’t always the case, myself included. In national politics, the best we can do is rely on past voting records, or past work related to the community. To review candidates’ voting records in preparation for casting a vote is a daunting task. That’s why it is important that we (the voting public) stay in touch with our representatives regularly so that we don’t have to cram a few days before election day. With local representatives, there is generally an opportunity to meet and learn about them personally.
But what I think may happen more often than not is that we see the platform that the candidate has affirmed, see an element of the platform that we either like or dislike, and that drives our vote.
Let me tell you a story of why I think that strategy is a bad one.
The 2024 election is still a year away, but candidates for local and state representatives have already thrown their hats into the ring and started their campaigns.
I had the opportunity to meet with a candidate recently, at her request. She used a good tactic – saying I was reputed to be a community leader. Cool!
I did my due diligence and looked at the campaign website. Oh my. Nope. No way.
So, I grabbed one thing we disagreed on and wrote back that I couldn’t support anyone who ran on a couple of key issues and, as I normally write way too much, I gave multiple reasons.
The candidate responded quickly and agreed with many of the points I made and asked to have the opportunity to meet and listen.
Yeah right. Well, at least I should provide the opportunity for discussion, so I agreed to meet for coffee.
I came into the ring with gloves on. She listened to me.
Okay. I tried a couple of other issues. We had a good “give and take” conversation. I don’t think we changed each other’s minds, but it was a really good discussion…the kind of conversations we used to have before we entered the Twilight Zone.
Later, the candidate asked what our local issues were, and I unloaded. Not only did she listen, but she had contacts throughout the area and offered to help.
Okay, well maybe….
We set up another meeting to physically look at the areas of concern. More good discussion and a plethora of creative ideas. She reached out to her contacts and asked for an introduction to other community members who may disagree with her platform.
Hmmm….not what I would have given credence to when she first reached out. I had almost ruled her out when she might just be a solid candidate.
So here I am today questioning whether the issues on which we disagree are such a big deal as to not cast a vote for someone who has demonstrated that they are willing to roll up their sleeves, have quality dialogue, listen, and work FOR the community.
Don’t get me wrong, where we disagree could easily be described in terms of culture wars. And I suspect she believes in her side as deeply as I believe in mine.
But we can’t both have everything our individual way. Somewhere along the line, we must dig below the surface of ideology and discuss the issues that make up the ideology.
In that detail, we often find we agree more than we disagree. In fact, we find that the culprit is something we didn’t even think had anything to do with the issue. Perhaps the labels that the media uses or that we have come to identify with. Culture wars tend to get people positioned on the ideology without understanding, or perhaps even thinking about the details.
The solution (or perhaps the compromise) usually lies somewhere in the details where there may be a possibility for agreement.
To get there requires honest and courageous dialogue.
We have lost that ability as a nation. And if we can’t get below the surface of the labels that the culture wars (on both sides) have cemented in our brains, we don’t have a prayer of ever coming out of the Twilight Zone.
I hope that in the future I look at casting my vote in terms of the whole candidate – what has been accomplished, how well they put their rhetoric into action, and what really matters. Issues that the culture wars have put front and center of our political system really do pale against where we go together as a community and as a nation.