It was that time again! The first Tuesday in May was once again the pre-Election Day dry run when Americans in many districts have the chance to vote in primaries to decide which candidates will move forward in our aggravatingly binary political system. Primaries tend to lure a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the votes that actual Election Day does, but in some local races, our votes are no less important. Basically, 90% of the population cedes quite a few decisions to the 10% of us who feel compelled to show up and take advantage of their inertia. Advantage: us.
Granted, not all May elections are exciting, or groundbreaking, or memorable. Once you’ve decided whether you’re on Team A or Team B, chances are most of your candidates are already decided either for lack of competition or due to strict orders from The Powers That Be in your party’s clubhouse, who’ve already made up your mind for you. But a few candidates need support in the primaries to get anywhere with their aspirations. They’re the best reasons to get out and vote. Those races are also the ones where we, the voters, ostensibly have the most power. The fewer of us that show up, the bigger a difference we can make.
In our district we had a few races to watch. The biggest is for U.S. Senator. The Democratic incumbent is generally well regarded and has no plans to go anywhere. Meanwhile on the other side, three guys have been tearing each other apart with attack ads in which they fight and fight and fight (literally with boxing gloves, in one) to prove which of them is the Trumpiest of all. All three leaned into the comparison and haven’t forgotten how quickly Indiana offered up its 2016 electoral votes to these candidates’ new role model. The revelation that one of them was previously a bona fide “Never-Trumper” was treated with the gravitas of a 1980s sex scandal rather than as a selling point. As it turns out, the Never-Trumper did lose. The winner was the least well known of the three before 2017, and the least engaged in the statewide political scene — which certainly invites comparison to the current holder of the Office of the President. And he, too, believes that walls are impenetrable and cool.
We also have a U.S. Congressional seat up for renewal. The ten-year incumbent — a black Muslim who succeeded his own grandmother, who held the same seat for the ten years prior — had four contenders from his own party: a convicted felon, a sanitation worker, a lady who runs the café at our main library downtown, and some white guy whose facts and trivia kept escaping my head every time I tried to memorize any of them. The incumbent’s landslide victory was shocking to no one, but The Woman trounced the other guys. Meanwhile on the other side, contenders for that same office include dudes with nicknames like “Gunny” and “Big Dog”, which were actually printed on the ballots. Suffice it to say a new breed of contenders are feeling more emboldened in the current climate than others.
The local office of Sheriff is also up for grabs, but we saw very little drama on that front. The five candidates between the two sides are already employed within our police and/or sheriff departments, all basically gunning for the same promotion. Frankly, I’m not sure why they don’t merely have their HR department conduct interviews and settle that position in-house. I only noticed two commercials from one of the five guys. He avoided scolding or even mentioning any opponents. That candidate clearly doesn’t understand how The Game is played in our broken 21st century and ought to learn the awful art of muckraking before it’s wielded against him.
Such is the state of voting in the state of our modest corner of Indiana until these races intensify in November. I don’t know that any results from these particular elections should be seen as worrying or potentially damaging to local society, which doesn’t tend to roil or explode every four to six hours like social media does. But the year is young. At least I did my part to move it forward. Not that I’ll ever get personalized thank-you cards from any of my winners, or even my losers. Then again, one of the perks of never, ever voting for straight party tickets in November is that I can totally hold my petty grudge against them. I guarantee it won’t be the stupidest reasoning anyone uses at the polls.