Recently I wrote a bit about my political doings this election year. I laud those of you who are actively aligned with the political party and candidates of your choice providing assistance by working in campaigns in the many ways of support.
Many years past when I was single I was President of one of the “Young” political parties small town chapters, very actively soliciting more new young members. When the election time was near we were going door-to-door, distributing literature, engaging in dialogue on the issues, offering to make-certain voters had transportation to wherever they voted, whatever their political party preference. Feelings ran high during that election, too.
Had I known then, what I came to learn only many years later I never would have supported the candidate I did. In the small town where I was living, all the negative information that would have caused me to probably reject that candidate was packaged and received by us, his supporters, in such a way as to indicate it was all untrue factual distortion concocted by his opposition. But, so many years later when residing in that candidates home state where much of his chicanery had occurred, I learned the truth.
We do the best we can with the knowledge we acquire and make our choices. In retrospect, if I had to pick one major lesson I learned from that early naive youthful political experience, it is that I wish I had listened more to the opposition, made more of an effort to check the facts about what was being said though we had limited means to do so.
I grew up in a family and a State steeped in one particular political party tradition. Oh, there was debate alright, but mostly within that parties parameters. Whatever the issue between parties the debate entered into always came from an almost automatic point of view that the opposing view probably didn’t have any credibility. Keep in mind that we all thought we were being objective and openly examining all sides of each issue, but the reality was quite different as I had learned years later when I became active in college debate. There, we argued one side of an issue one time and the next time had to take the opposite point of view, all with the goal of winning both times. There’s nothing quite like learning the weaknesses of any point of view when one has to learn all the fine points and then argue against them.
Even having come to the knowledge I had about issues before I became politically active, I realize now how few fact checking sources we had access to compared to today with reliable fact checking organizations readily, literally, at our fingertips via the Internet.
The flip side of that is there is an over-abundance of so-called “news” sources regurgitating “facts” that need to be checked. Too many times we are subjected to authoritative-sounding voices speaking in absolutes that mask the warped distortions in what they say. “News” sources – too many of which make little or no pretense at differentiating between actual honest-to-gawd news facts, rumor, gossip, opinion, innuendo, deliberate distortion of information. Trying to stay on top of checking out this flood of information, misinformation, for facts or downright lies and anything in between, has become a nightmare in itself. I guess it’s better than what existed in years past, but sometimes I do wonder. It is enough to cause some people to throw up their hands in surrender and decide not to vote at all. Personally, I think that’s a cop-out, but to each his own.
I’ve been giving it my level best for many years to consider all sides of every issue. I’ve already admitted to having made some mistakes, but I have learned. I long ago evolved a manner of viewing and living life that pre-disposes me to a point of view which would certainly be brought to bear on the issues I consider. You know – little things like “rights,” “equality,” “values,” “ethics,” “morality,” “choice,” “freedom,” to name a few significant words in that milieu.
So, it should come as no surprise that in this, one of the most important presidential campaigns in my life time, that part of my process (everybody has their own, no doubt) was to visit my communities campaign headquarters for the two major political parties. Just so you won’t be disappointed if you keep reading further, nothing profound occurred when I ventured into their dens, though I disappointed myself by not always retaining the calm cool collected dispassionate manner I had intended.
Anyone who has read some of what I’ve written previously here and elsewhere knows I’ve pretty well determined where my vote will go, and I have even confidently, on occasion, pronounced how I’ll vote and will likely continue to do so. Still, until my ballot is in the box, nothing is a sure thing, so I keep trying to maintain an open mind.
My first visit was to the Republican Headquarters which opened earlier than that of the other party, several weeks before the Florida Convention. The Headquarters is in a very prominent visible popular strip shopping center north of and facing famous Route 66 known as Foothill Blvd. in our city. The strip has a few store vacancies, but is anchored by a busy grocery chain whose health food products include meats, produce and organic items. A prominent national bank is in the process of constructing a new branch there expected to open soon.
Further down the strip, on the drive’s opposite side is a long vacated stand alone building that once housed a bank which collapsed with the Wall St. financial debacle. On the strip are a Chinese restaurant and the administrative offices for our very unpopular water company that has continued to charge our residents obscenely higher rates than other cities pay that they also serve (a topic for another time since in years to come cities elsewhere may find themselves subject to similar exploitation by greedy water companies.)
Be aware that Democrats usually garner the majority of election votes in our city, but we’ve had our share of effective and respected Republican government officials. In fact, during our state’s recent redistricting we were very pleased with the Republican chosen to represent our city and the final official plan he was instrumental in seeing was adopted. By the same token I’ve been one of many extremely displeased with our Republican U.S. Representative elected by others in our then district who was part of those obstinately refusing to govern. He’s not running for office this year since redistricting, but will likely be active behind the scenes.
I was the only Republican Headquarters visitor in the middle of a mid-week afternoon not long after their national Florida convention had ended. I gravitated to some tables on which printed leaflets of various sizes, shapes, colors and number of pages were laid out. A middle-aged gentleman approached and asked if there was anything he could assist with. I asked if they had a copy of the Republican Platform and he was a bit unprepared for that request, saying, finally, “No.”
Meanwhile, a woman from further in the room injected that there would be a copy of it on the Internet (which, I already knew, but I had wanted a printed copy) and I said, “Oh, that’s okay then, I can go out and get a copy there,” as I picked up a small printed list of issue points they had for distribution. I mentioned I had a real problem with a lie Ryan had told which I cited, that caused the woman to become all excited as she came toward me voicing in a condemning and a very accusatory tone, “You’re a Democrat!”
I said, “No, I’m not” as I briefly recapped my voter registration and some previous political history. She went on to say, in a sudden burst that seemed to be in confrontation-type attack mode “Well, Bill Clinton lied!” to which I responded that had nothing to do with the Ryan issue to which I was referring. By now, my voice is irritated, I realized, as the gentleman standing off to the side, but centered somewhere in the middle of the very wide distance between the woman and I, tried to inject a calming but defensive justifying statement, I think. His remark was that he had checked that statement and “Ryan hadn’t said that, he had simply used innuendo.” I made some comment questioning how honest that was, but was so disgusted, and the atmosphere was obviously so highly emotionally charged, that I decided I’d be wise to just leave there.
My mood was befouled by that time, but I drove down Foothill Blvd. a couple of miles into the next city to a corner intersection occupied by a stand alone national fast food restaurant and a drive-in key making stand. I turned south into a somewhat long-declining shopping strip with a huge vacant anchor space once occupied by several different major grocery chains each of which was unable to survive for long.
The rest of the strip included some vacant storefronts interspersed between a small popular chain electronics store, a laundromat, a drugstore, beauty supply store, auto parts store, and a few other businesses. Across the main wide divided street was another long strip mall with all sorts of businesses, including a popular family-owned restaurant whose genuine Mexican food many of us enjoy. A national company gas station/store is on that corner.
At a right angle from that long vacant grocery store building, clear at the end of the first strip described here, was the rather invisible Democratic Headquarters. They had opened the day before their national North Carolina convention which would soon begin. They had plenty of parking spaces available, as I mentioned later to those manning the party headquarters. They are probably well situated to attract nearby residents, in apartment complexes, foot traffic, and bus traffic going in all directions to and from Los Angeles, plus points east.
The city of this headquarters location has quite a different demographics and higher population numbers than my next door city. The recent primary election had shown a significant increase in Republican voters in this neighboring city which some political writers had said should be of concern to the Democratic Party.
I saw only two individual workers in the Democratic Headquarters when I entered and walked straight ahead to tables with a variety of printed handouts, similar in appearance, but fewer in number than I had previously encountered at the other headquarters. There clearly was no Democratic Platform brochure evident, but maybe they hadn’t yet adopted one, so I didn’t even ask.
I did ask the woman who came forward what sort of volunteer help they would be using.
My tone of voice and serious manner did not elicit a warm smiling greeting which I soon realized. I gave her the benefit of the doubt by assuming it was my problem and quickly apologized, noting I had just come from the Republican Headquarters where I had become irritated and, regrettably, these feelings had accompanied me here. She named several groups who would be coming in the days ahead to man phone banks, calling people to assist in their registration. I asked if they were going to utilize volunteers to transport people to their voting site. She replied, “No, not this year -- they had the previous election and no one ever called to ask for a ride.”
I expressed concern based on having read a news account shortly after the Primary Election that Republicans had more voters cast ballots than the Democrats, though there were more registered Democratic voters in that county directly east of our own which had been described in the article. The significant result was that two Republicans had garnered most of the votes and would be the candidates in the general election and there would be no Democratic candidate. She didn’t seem particularly concerned that getting voters to the polls could be a problem here.
I mentioned we all help our candidates in differing ways and that I knew many were writing some strong blog content in support of theirs – particularly for President Obama. She turned away with a slightly dismissive look and toss of her head that distinctly left me with the impression that she had little regard for blogging as a useful act.
By this time, I had moved to a table toward the front side of the room which had a long row of stacks and stacks of different pullover tee shirt/sweat shirts – mostly black fabric with Obama’s likeness on the front, and gaudily decorated for my taste, with all sorts of bright colored sprinkles and sparkles. Perhaps they knew this was what would appeal to those who would be seeking election souvenirs, or to wear, in the community they were attracting. Unfortunately, they were so unattractive to me I didn’t want to purchase one. I didn’t see any pin-on type buttons, but hadn’t seen any at the Republican Headquarters either.
The gentleman by that table came forward and a conversation ensued in which we noted sharing the same surname, that neither of us knew, or were related to any of the other people with our same name who lived in any of the surrounding communities. I reiterated my concern I had expressed to the woman I had spoken with, that while voter registration was vital and an issue in many other States, I thought what happened in that next door County would suggest that getting people out to vote might need to be a major focus here in So Cal. I received an explanation and reassurance that what happened was a consequence of always present internal complications in how the political party functioned there in that particular county, but was not a concern here.
Also, he noted that he had checked the figures and Obama was certain to accrue all the votes he needed in California. This was not difficult to believe, since California has predominately been a Democratic voting State. However, I felt compelled to caution that if they wanted to be certain their candidate won, I hoped they wouldn’t be complacent – that there had been other elections, other years, whose outcome was thought to be known and proved not to be so.
Before I left the Democratic Headquarters the man with whom I was speaking told me of group events they would be holding there in the future, including watching some of the convention proceedings which was clearly an unspoken invitation for me to return if I wished to do so.
My adventure into these political party headquarters occurred with my having no agenda other than curiosity as to how I would be greeted, what I might observe, the literature they would be distributing, whether there would be an effort to elicit my support via my vote and/or my volunteering to help elect their candidate. In both instances I think the approach was one of allowing me to initiate any interaction, that they were there to answer questions as opposed to influencing how I might cast my ballot.
My questioning or expressing distaste for what one Parties candidate had said, may have predisposed those Party representatives, or at least one of them, to respond in a none to dialogue inviting manner. But then, I’ve been in situations much more confrontational than that and was able to respectfully have a friendly extended conversation with the person.
Inquiring and questioning the other Parties approach to soliciting votes was probably not as threatening as commenting on one of their candidates statements would have been. So, maybe it was easier for them to be more cordial and want to bring me into the fold.
This activity doesn’t sway my vote one way or another, and took very little time. I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t already know from the literature that was being distributed. I expect our California political headquarters are pretty calm compared to many other States, especially in those States whose votes are considered to be critical.
Our particular area doesn’t really have that many other candidates and issues to motivate political parties to aggressively promote their point of view to voters even though we had redistricting. There is such a heavy emphasis on the Presidential tickets that I think it overwhelms everything else. I do think there are some State issues that will heat up our population before election day. Our two women Democratic Party Senators are expected to be returned to office without difficulty. There may be some districts with some candidates for other national offices and some state ones that those voters will need to seriously consider.
I wonder what’s politically exciting, or not, where you live?