My recent leap from the political bleachers into the arena itself was an experience rich with learning. Unalloyed defeat tends to be instructive if you manage to survive it and, fortunately, having your head handed to you in an election isn’t nearly so fatal as, well, actually having your head handed to you.
One of the things I learned that may surprise you is how many men and women run for office for what we would universally agree are the right reasons: a desire to serve, a willingness to sacrifice and a sincere conviction that their ideology, properly applied, will secure the common good. I say I learned this lesson only recently, because my prior experience – as a reporter, as member of the polity, as a consumer of candidates’ rhetoric and as a voter – hadn’t provided much evidence to support the notion that earnest hearts of service beat beneath many candidates’ American flag lapel pins. I say this may surprise you, because chances are you’ve had similarly scant evidence yourself.
The reason is that, by the time the attack ads start running cheek by jowl, and certainly by the time you get to cast your ballot, those candidates have fallen to the clanging, grinding, dollar-fueled machines that propel the candidates for whom you DO get to vote. Your choice is made among professional pols and puppet patsies, who would be indistinguishable from one another (at least on grounds of character) if not for those handy Rs and Ds. You may cheer on one side or the other, but come Wednesday morning, the real comfort is we don’t really rely on these folks for much. We go on raising our families, practicing our professions, living out our faiths, satisfying our responsibilities, ensuring our own security, plotting our own courses, and it matters almost not at all who prevails. It’s the difference between ordering the egg drop soup or the hot and sour.
But I count myself blessed to at least have shared the hustings with the sincere rabbi with a first career singing Christmas albums; the single mom trying to make a better life for her boy; the philanthropic businessman with a teacher’s insight; the Marines and the Navy SEAL looking to vindicate further the oath they took and honored on real battlefields -- and a good dozen more..
As for the candidates still on the ballot? Sorry about that. No substitutions allowed.