Thursday, November 10, 2011

Knee-Jerk voting, part 2

I have had a couple of days to recover from the stress and exhaustion leading up to Election Day.  And I have a few thoughts about that experience, which I will share in this and future posts.

The most dismaying part of this experience was seeing first-hand something I had previously written about, knee-jerk voting.  What I mean by that is that a voter who knows, and cares, nothing about who the candidates are, what the issues are or the candidate's positions on those issues, but only cares about what party label they bear. 

I had up-close and personal views of that Tuesday, greeting voters at several polling places.  Despite several years in the public eye, many voters didn't have a clue who I was or what my positions were on local issues.  I had a web site, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account, and anyone who Googled me would come up with plenty of material to satisfy their curiosity.  I had been in the news more than once (prior to the Indianapolis Star all but abandoning news coverage in Hamilton County), in various radio interviews, and even in TV news spots. 

What mattered to most of them was whether or not I was a Republican.  Now, I have my share of voters who are Republican who took the trouble to check me out or who know me personally support me, so what I am saying is decidedly NOT an indictment of all things Republican.  Nor am I critical of those who did become informed and decided to vote for my opponent (whom I like by the way). 

What upsets me, deeply, is the thought that ONLY PARTY LABEL MATTERS.  Of the just over 5000 (out of about 35,000 registered voters) who cast a ballot, just over 3000 cast a straight Republican ticket.  My highly unscientific observation is that a significant number of those folks didn't have a clue.  I had conversations with multiple individuals that went something like this:

      "I like what you have to say, and you seem like a really nice guy, but I can't vote for you because you aren't a Republican.  Why don't you switch parties?"

      "Who are you and what party are you?" asked as I handed them a palm card which was a replica of my bright red-and-white campaign sign, which were all over town.  "I am a Democrat", said I, and the voter gave me a weak smile and walked into the polls with a weak, "Sorry".

      "I wouldn't vote for a Democrat, even if all the Republicans were convicted criminals" ... a statement remarkably close to the situation which got us our current Secretary of State.

      And my personal favorite, "I know who you are, and I wouldn't vote for you if you were the last man on Earth", said with obvious anger in full view of my opponent's volunteers, who were shocked.  At least that man, and I have no idea who he was, knew who he was voting for and why.  But in the unlikely event he reads this, an anger management course might be a good idea.

I also got an email from a prominent, and usually friendly, Republican suggesting that I switch parties.  My sharper-than-usual reply was along the lines that I did not think that a socially progressive Obama supporter would be especially welcome in the GOP. 

I have no problem with someone choosing not to vote for me based on disagreement with my real views affecting the office I am running for.  That is what elections are supposed to be about.  But voting based just on party label, when you don't have a clue otherwise makes me shudder for democracy.