Well, I voted today. Dragged myself out of bed an hour early and went down before work. I thought I was prepared, ready to go on all the issues. Everybody seemed in a surprisingly good mood, considering we were standing in line. I made it up to my voting machine; I had planned to cast a paper ballot, as I have read too many stories of votes “flipping” from one candidate to the other, usually from Obama to McCain, but I wanted to see the machines first hand. I live in Ohio, a battleground state, and have read Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Rolling Stone article about the 2004 election, experienced some of what was reported first hand, so my untrusting wheels were already a turnin’. I took a breath and stepped up. After carefully reading the prompts on the screen, I pushed the Obama button, and there came a print out at the bottom of the machine showing my vote. Ok, there is a paper trail, I was a little relieved.
Then I started going down the list. I knew the major candidates, and even though I had met Steve Stivers, the Republican candidate for my district, and actually liked most of what he had to say (he stood up to a local business owners meeting who were mostly Republican and said he’d love to cut their taxes, but first he had to balance the budget), I voted down party lines. The ones I didn’t know, I just voted for my party.
Then I got to the judges. There was no party listed! I had forgotten this fact, and had not done my due diligence in researching the candidates. I have heard all the commercials, but both sides say the other side is, “dangerously unqualified,” so who do you believe? And I had forgotten to bring the letter I had received from Obama telling me how I as a Democrat should vote. So, I left them all blank. Then I had a thought, “Why do we have to have the candidate’s party on the ballot?” I didn’t know which candidate was a Democrat, so how could I know who to vote for?
I am embarrassed by this. It shouldn’t be this way. Just because someone belongs to my party doesn’t mean they are the right person for the job. Steve Stivers had mentioned this in the meeting I had gone to, and said that he hoped people wouldn’t vote right down party lines this year, but I have a feeling most do. I consider myself pretty informed. I read the main stream media reports, I read the op-eds, I even read all the conspiracy theories, but I had forgotten to read up on my local candidates. If we didn’t put their party on the ballot, just their name, how many people would be stuck just like me? How different would the outcome be? Would voters actually have to think and do a little research before going to the polls? Would some third party candidates actually get elected? Would we finally get out of this “My Team/Your Team” mentality? That’s really what it has become. We just want our team to win.
Most Republicans and Democrats aren’t that different, and if you do believe the conspiracies, they are one and the same, and we as the responsible public (myself included) have gotten a little lazy. I hear a complaint about McCain and say, “Aha, I told you so.” Then I hear one about Obama and say, “Nah, that’s just politics.” And both sides do this. My Republican boss prints out articles for me about how the Democrats got us into this financial mess, and I respond with what the Republicans did, and we both miss the point. Both sides are at fault here, and as corny as it sounds, until we all start playing for the same team, things will never get better.
Tim Buchholz is a freelance writer living in Ohio