Guest Opinions: Monday Morning Politicking

Category:  Opinion
Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Monday Morning Politicking

Much like the day after your favorite football team suffers a heartbreaking loss, the day after an election leads to a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. And just like NFL fans, politicos lament everything from the ground game to the officiating to explain why their team lost. Last time local elections came around, some blamed entrenched incumbency for the reason their team couldn’t get ahead. This year, Kathy Dahlkemper, Andre Horton, Jay Brenemen, John Groh, and Lisa Austin (Honorable Mention) fought to win over the voters and showed that hard work can, in fact, trump incumbency. 

Now the claim is that the opposition is rigging the game with the ‘Straight Ticket Option’. Essentially, this rather arrogant argument goes, “If only those people were as informed as me, they would have voted for my candidate.” This is no different than President Barack Obama blaming “Bibles” and “guns” for his problems in the 2008 PA Primary, or Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment in the 2012 Presidential Election. Both learned that the people won’t tolerate condescending politicians.

Folks across the political spectrum would do well to realize that everyone votes for their own reasons and none of those decisions are any less intelligent or rational than the others. I don’t begrudge anyone for how they vote whether it’s based on faith, gender, ethnicity, orientation, friendship, family, neighborhood, economic status, or even (gasp!) party. These reasons are just as important as a candidate’s qualifications, because what really matters to people is: “Does this person relate to me? Does he or she share my values? Do they really care?” 

No amount of degrees or professional experience can trump these three basic questions – and they shouldn’t. If you don’t relate to your constituents’ life experiences, if you don’t share their values, and if you can’t prove to them that you care about their circumstances, then you don’t deserve to represent them.

Party identification is more than just a letter in front of your name. It’s an expression of your experiences, values, and perspective.  While a candidate’s resume may inform you of his or her skills and education, it’s their party affiliation that can give you a glimpse into the philosophy that will guide how they put those skills to use in office. Straight-ticket voters may be partisan, but they’re not uninformed. They just prioritize principles over CVs. I wouldn’t presume to know how someone would vote if I arbitrarily outlawed the method they choose to use. I would, however, argue that in a non-presidential year with only 30 percent turnout, the un-informed voters likely stayed home, and the partisans would likely stay partisan whether there was an ‘easy-button’ or not. 

But so what? So what if 11 percent of the electorate only votes Democratic and 7 percent only votes Republican? That leaves 82 percent of the vote up for grabs to whoever wants it more. Are you (or your candidate) more than a letter? Then stop being an armchair expert whining at the TV. Get in the game and inform the voters yourself, because just like incumbency, your ‘brand’ can be overcome with hard work.

You don’t need to look any further than the top of the countywide ticket this year. Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper defeated her Republican opponent for County Executive with 57 percent of the vote. Considering the democratic registration advantage, one could assume a similar outcome to the countywide race for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.  However, even without the ‘home field advantage’ of being a Democrat in a democratic county, a Republican, attorney Bob Sambroak,  won against a very accomplished and well-known Democratic nominee, 57 percent to 43 percent. This polar opposite result should give the Anti-Straight Ticket Party pause, and hopefully cause them to give the public more credit. 

In the end, local elections aren’t determined by incumbency or registration numbers. Like in the NFL, victory comes down to which team played harder and left it all out there on the field for the crowd. But sometimes, even if you play the best game of your life, you can fall short on the final drive. When that happens, the real competitors look in the mirror and the war weary hang it up, but nobody blames the fans.

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 21
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