A few years back I wrote about some problems at the polls during a recent election.
Supercharged October 30, 2020
I don’t know whether I thought at the time that such controversy was an anomaly. I do know that I didn’t understand why it had to occur at all. It may sound very over-the-hill to say this, but why can’t election volunteers for campaigns be friendly and courteous to one another and to voters, and leave it at that?
Why am I raising this issue again? Well, because the same old multi-headed monster has been on the rampage in Columbia/HoCo since the primary. This time it has widened to include candidates, racist tropes, and more. These accusations of bad behavior have been popping up on social media along with outrage both real and manufactured.
All of it - - surprise! - - confirms what the person or group thought already.
I wasn’t present for any of this and it would be irresponsible for me to try to write about it in any journalistic fashion. It would be more of what you can read on any number of Facebook groups. “He said and she said and well, I never.” Yes, I have opinions. They’re complicated.
Is it a very white, middle-class notion to want everyone to be on their best behavior on Election Day? It might be. I honestly don’t know anymore. I do know that standing off to one side and telling people how they should behave can be singularly unhelpful.
My expectations for electioneering probably rest on my days in retail and food service. You need to be pleasant to everyone no matter what. If they are unpleasant you suck it up and try to redirect the conversation to safer ground. If you can’t you just smile and thank them for something, anything. In this case it would be for voting.
But in retail you can always send them to your manager. It’s not that easy at the polls. So what do you do in the heat of the moment?
The last time I wrote about this topic I was criticized for not taking sides. Or rather, for not actively taking the side of one of the injured parties. And here I am not doing it again. Feel free to take me to task on this if you wish. It isn’t that I don’t have opinions. It’s because I’m far more focused on why this happens and if there’s anything we, as a community, could do to make things better.
Since last week I have honestly pondered whether body cameras were an option. Would it make any difference? Even if video footage were available, would it serve merely to reinforce what the viewer thought already? We bring all sorts of deeply-held beliefs and biases to everything we do. And see. And hear.
When we care a lot about something, and invest a lot of ourselves in it, then the things that occur within that sphere are intensely important to us. That’s only natural. But is there a point at which it becomes hyper magnified? Can we lose perspective?
And what does that mean for the other folks who exist outside of the circle of intense interest? Do we even forget that they are there, sometimes? Is it possible to move from “dedicated to a cause” to “cut off from everything else” and not recognize it is happening?
When does it stop being about communicating a cause to the greater community and become an all-consuming fight to the death against the operatives on the other “team”? And, when it does, are we sacrificing our long term goals by going all out to win the short term battle?
Two questions: as a voter, what kind of an experience would you like at the polls when you go to vote?
If you are a candidate or a campaign poll-worker: what kind of an experience would you like when working at the polls?
Why isn’t it happening?