After being raised in a household free of overt political discussion, I never had any idea which political party was mine. A moment of clarity arrived in eleventh-grade Physics class when a fellow student named Jeff sought to offer me personal definition: he asked me my views on abortion. I gave him an answer. He told me which party was mine. To him, it was as simple as that. I decided then and there that the two-party monopoly left a lot to be desired. Thus was my head sent spinning into years of aimless political apathy, college-campus pluralism, irritatingly noncommittal neutrality, alternative-newspaper perusal, and Jello Biafra spoken-word albums. Truly it was a time of intellectual isolation for me, though the accompanying music could be cool at times.
Two decades later, I’m no more into taking arbitrary sides, generalizing entire parties based on the actions of a single faction, or collecting campaign buttons than I was in my misanthropic youth. However, at least now I can say I’m participating in the voting process anyway, because the small local elections are close enough to home that the votes really can make a difference, free of interference from unhelpful interlopers like the Electoral College. Also, just because I can.
One of my most vital resources for my singular decision-making process is the handy Voter Guide assembled each year by our local newspaper The Indianapolis Star, comprised of general information about each and every candidate in each and every race and district, as well as their answers to survey questions provided by the Star. I’m grateful to have this useful tool that helps me sort through the promotional clutter and provides insight into the writing process of the candidates or their appointed interns. I’m also blessed to live in a large city that still has one major newspaper in business.
My biggest regret: the Guide isn’t terribly helpful in discerning which candidates are closest to me in spiritual terms, because nearly every candidate professes some form of Christianity. None of them is required to explicate their beliefs in depth, verify how closely they hew to their chosen denominational label, or submit themselves to me for judgment of their salvation. Without that crucial info that I don’t deserve to have, this criterion effectively cancels itself out across the board, and I’m forced to find other determinants for my votes. Since I never vote a straight party ticket, the options are few and, to the average citizen, doubtlessly maddening.
Based on the information provided by the Guide, the candidates’ approved responses, and my own reactions thereto, the following would represent my voting plans for Election Day 2012 as of this minute, subject to change on a whim without notice. Any attempts to sway my votes with regurgitated partisan boilerplate or half-baked email-chain rumor-mongering will result in my resorting to even daffier winnowing methods.
Downward we descend into utter abpunditry:
U.S. Senate: Fellow Americans outside Indiana may already be familiar with our Republican candidate, Richard Mourdock, whose woefully worded debate response about the meaning of life as it pertains to children born of rape in God’s Plan. Prior to that, he made a name for himself by winning the May primary against the incumbent, longtime Senator Dick Lugar, one of the least hated living politicians around. Unfortunately, the ravages of time mellowed Lugar out too much and made him prone to hippie-loving appeasement, in the eyes of the local Tea Partiers. The Libertarian candidate, Andrew Hornung, declined to complete the Star‘s survey. Advantage: Joe Donnelly, who finished his homework and has no awkward viral soundbites to his discredit.
U.S. Representative, District 7: The incumbent is Andre Carson, whose predecessor was his own grandmother. The challenger is Carlos May, current City Director under Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. Carson is Muslim; May is Hispanic. Racists in our district must be quite confounded right now. May has a slight edge in that he’s done volunteer work in our local school district. Ben Davis pride goes a long way.
Governor: All of the candidates have their good qualities. My wife and I once enjoyed listening to Mike Pence speak at a charity benefit, but I worry that he might be part of the local Republican machine. John Gregg has had the funniest commercials to date, but hasn’t offered much of a strong alternative to Pence. She and I also met Survivor winner Rupert Boneham this year at the Indiana State Fair, and he even paid a visit to our friends’ daughter in the hospital. Pence’s beliefs are closer to my own, but Boneham scored huge with this family.
Attorney General: The challenger, Kay Fleming, didn’t respond to the survey. Congratulations, incumbent Greg Zoeller! You’re my man by forfeit.
Superintendent of Public Instruction: The incumbent, Tony Bennett, has that way-cool name and a track record for ruffling feathers in major ways during his first term. Some of his unprecedented methods included outsourcing some failing schools to out-of-state companies for retooling and running. The challenger, Glenda Ritz, is a longtime teacher that my high school acquaintances suddenly started touting on Facebook over the weekend. If I’d heard of her before this weekend, that might’ve helped her case. As it is, I’m inclined to give Bennett a chance to keep thinking outside the box and making educators pull their hair out until they figure out how to get him off their backs. If we heed the comic-book writing adage that every hero is only as good as their villain, then Hoosier teachers should be grateful for this opportunity to become magnificent super-heroes in the face of Bennett’s adversity. Good luck, teachers! Remember, we’re all counting on you.
State Representative, District 92: All I know about Republican Tim Motzinger is that the graphics studio who designed his attack mailers went above and beyond in finding the most horrible, unflattering photos in existence of opponent Karlee Macer — all gaping, frowning, free of makeup, showing off every possible age line or crevice they could highlight in Photoshop. It’s as if Motzinger’s campaign manager looked at photos of this blonde under-50 candidate and uttered to him in gravest tones, “Sir, our only hope for victory is to make her ugly.” By contrast, all I know about Macer is that she’s a member of one of the churches down the street from us, and her daughter worked outside our precinct on the morning of the May primary. No contest: I’ll be voting against the attack ads, regardless of any contributions Macer allegedly accepted from the annoying Patrick Bauer.
Marion County Coroner: I still refuse to believe this is an elected position. The office came under fire in the Star at least once under the tenure of incumbent Frank Lloyd, Jr. How much can challenger Ed Eppler offer to sway our vote? Basically, he’ll do autopsies on a lower budget, and he’s endorsed by the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police, whose fundraiser telemarketers are among the peskiest I’ve ever rebuffed. Long live Lloyd.
Marion County Surveyor: The survey answers of incumbent Debra Jenkins mention her one grandchildren and three on the way, promises to keep her surveying under budget, and extols her experience with map-scanning and 2012 Super Bowl roadblock planning. Challenger Jeff Kondy has ten grandchildren, promises to cut the budget, and name-checks the American Dream. Um, it’s a surveyor job. Let’s go with Jenkins just to maintain cartographic continuity.
Marion County Treasurer: Both candidates have MBAs from Butler University, but challenger Jason Woodruff’s succinct survey answers reek of someone who hates answering surveys. The responses of incumbent Claudia Fuentes used phrases such as “units of government” and “deduction fraud”, so she probably knows what she’s doing.
Wayne Township Advisory Board, District 7: Yes, I’m obviously saving the largest race of the year for my grand finale. Here, we have a medical office supervisor versus a beautician who lives in our vicinity, but who misspelled “beautician” on her survey. Spelling Nazi fail.
Wayne Township School Board At Large: We’re instructed to vote for three of the five candidates. I’m definitely voting for the one who answered, “Why not run?” because of moxie; the one who’s a member of St. Christopher’s Church because of their awesome annual festivals; and the incumbent who wrote the longest answers. Remember: my votes, my arbitrary guidelines.
Various judges: Noted for the record, but not nearly interesting enough to tell apart. I’ll come back to this one on my own time. Yahtzee dice may be incorporated into the process.
President: None of the three major candidates filled out their own questionnaires. All the answers are excerpts from their official campaign sites. I’m not even convinced that the candidates’ own interns provided the excerpts for them. The Star probably had to do their own copy/paste gruntwork. I’d withhold my vote from all three of them in retaliation, if only a fourth candidate had successfully petitioned for a spot on the Indiana ballot. Much as I hate to end on a note of ambiguity, I believe I have much more to ponder here before the big day. On the other hand, Obama is the youngest candidate; Romney, the oldest. Gary Johnson, then, would be juuuust right. Or…not. We’ll see.
And remember: if you think I’m bad about this, somewhere out there are voters who care which candidates are cutest, whitest, most male, or had the greatest number of picket signs cluttering their local lawns. I’m the least of your problems.
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To read more about my political thoughts and why it’s usually a waste of your time and brainpower to engage me about them, be sure to visit your local library and check out these previous entries:
* Indiana State Fair 2012 Photos featuring TV’s Rupert Boneham!