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.
Trump. Trump, trump.
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Once again it’s Election Day here in America, the taut finale to one of the worst seasons our political showrunners have written for us to date. When I began typing this shortly after a new episode of Chopped Junior ended, Twitter was having itself a series of roiling meltdowns as everyone insisted on paying too much attention to the early returns even though some states won’t be finished tabulating or even voting for the next several hours. That’s setting aside any pending conflict resolutions or triple-overtime recounts for those neck-and-neck battleground states where the Big Two are finding their supposedly easy leads in the Presidential race thwarted by votes siphoned away by third-party candidates and repelled away by their own morally compromised candidates and constituents.
Today I performed my civic duty as an Indiana voter and participated in our May 3rd primaries despite the options. My wife and I have differing political philosophies, but we were unanimous in our non-enthusiasm for any of the four remaining contenders going into our less-than-super Tuesday. Once upon a time, my wife could walk into any election headquarters, throw the straight-ticket lever, and be out the door before they could finish peeling her “I VOTED!” sticker off its backing paper. Not so much anymore.
Indiana’s voting laws are flexible enough that it doesn’t matter which party you normally identify with — for primaries you simply tell them which party’s ballot you want to use, then you’re off and running. No proof of allegiance, no mandatory party registration, no pop quiz, nothing. Despite that flexibility, Anne and I each deliberated much longer than usual in choosing between the Reality Star, the Clinton dynasty, the Televangelist, and Old Man Cloud-Yeller. And this is just the primaries. We have a lot of thinking to do between now and actual Election Day in November.
But of all the messages I’ve been sifting through on social media tonight in between The Flash live-tweets, one will stick with me longer than any other.
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.
Some of the most interesting events in my life were the result of my asking one simple question: “What happens when I do this?”
Sometimes my random experiments yield positive results — e.g., my 2004-2005 diet; home ownership; trying salt and malt vinegar on French fries; wedded bliss to an awesome woman; this blog. Sometimes my ventures turn into cautionary tales — e.g., my first marriage; ghetto apartment living; turnip greens; watching Constantine. Simple, earnest curiosity without an agenda or an expectation has been responsible for more than a few odd occurrences in my life.
Last March I received a random mail offer for a multi-issue subscription to Forbes Magazine for a mere pittance of ten dollars. I’d never flipped through an issue at a newsstand, let alone purchased or even read one. At the time, all I knew was that they publish articles about upper-class people, and they like writing lists of billionaires. Otherwise, I was clueless as to their content or nature. At a retail price of $4.99 per issue, ten dollars seemed like a bargain. In my mind, that meant it was time for an experiment.