Liberally Speaking11/6/08

Nov. 6, 2008

 

Watching our political future

By Steve Mount

Congratulations have to go out this week to Barack Obama, Jim Douglas and Brian Dubie. I’ll write further about the national, state and local races next time, because only after due time has passed can we truly analyze the patterns and trends that emerge from this election.

I will report, instead, on two profound experiences I had this past week.

The first had to do with that quintessential civic duty — voting. I write, though, not of my own experience in the voting booth, but instead of the experiences I had watching some of our children vote. On Tuesday, in the Williston Central School gym, the upper and lower houses in that building lined up one by one, throughout the course of the day, to participate in Vote for Kids.

In this mock election, lower house students, those in grades one through four, voted for the top of the ticket — president, governor and lieutenant governor. Upper house students, in grades five through eight, voted for president and all statewide offices.

I participated in the counting of votes for one upper and one lower house. The results I saw predicted the results of the real election — Obama was selected by a wide margin, as were Douglas and Dubie.

Unlike in an actual election, though, we did count ballots before all were cast, and that allowed me to witness some surprises and comebacks. Notably, at one point in the gubernatorial race, Independent Anthony Pollina was far beyond Democrat Gaye Symington and knocking on Douglas’ door. Democrat Tom Costello actually pulled up even to Republican Dubie in the lieutenant governor’s race at the midpoint of one tally. In both cases, the final tally was closer to the real vote tally, but it was fun to watch nevertheless.

I also noticed prevalent ticket splitting. The choices of Obama, Pollina and Dubie were actually quite common, and I wondered how many of these kids’ parents had spoken out loud about their choices, around the dinner table or in the car, running errands and driving here and there. Did they hear the arguments for and against the candidates that they presented, or did they listen to their lessons and to the candidates themselves, and make up their own minds?

It is an individual question, the answer to which I may never know. I do know, however, that my own kids did not mirror all of my own choices, and I take some pride in that. They heard me, time and again, argue for my choices, but in the end, they made their own choices, just as they should have. My daughter now, more than ever, looks forward to the next presidential election, where she will be old enough to cast her first vote. I only hope that at that time, she retains the lessons she has already learned, thinks for herself, weighs her options carefully, and makes up her own mind.

The other experience took place in the gym my wife and I frequent, and extended over the course of several days. In the gym, we’re all more concerned with building muscle and losing weight than anything else, but on Saturday and again on Tuesday, political discussions were intermixed with the warm ups and cool downs.

What I felt here was the complete and utter lack of ambivalence. In prior years, it was inevitable that some of my acquaintances would say they didn’t plan to vote. This year, however, I cannot recall discussing the election with a single person and hearing that suffrage rights would not be exercised.

Each day, stories were traded among those who had voted early, and once the Obama supporters and McCain supporters had made themselves known, there was good-natured ribbing about our respective choices. This was encouraging to me — that despite some of the negative campaigning that we’ve been subjected to over the past few months, we can come together and enjoy a good laugh. There was also universal respect from both sides for the supporters of the other side, and that gives me hope that as time passes and wounds heal, we will all be able to come together to overcome the issues that we face as a state and a nation.

I’ve always felt that this nation, these United States, is the best example of what we humans can accomplish when we work together. My hope has yet again been renewed, and I look forward to watching as we take one more step in our ongoing political evolution.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at steve@saltyrain.com or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.