By Bruce Stambaugh
I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for this election to be over. Even if I were a hermit, I think I would have gotten robo phone calls and unsolicited political mail and email this year.
These elections, especially the ones with national implications, seem to be getting worse each round. The rhetoric, promises and character assassinations get sharper and sharper. As much as I love democracy, I am more than ready for this nonsensical noisiness to end. All the nasty, negative political ads, especially the ones on TV, make you yearn for the days of the Veg-O-Matic commercials.
It didn’t used to be that way. Back in the days of smoke filled rooms and paper ballots politics were politics. Elections were elections. We weren’t blasted at every turn with extreme commentary of distorted and misapplied sound bites or publically aired criticisms that border on slander.
I remember when my father took me along when he voted in the gym of the elementary school where my brothers and sisters and I attended. It was a simple ordeal. Dad signed in, was given a paper ballot, walked to a vacant voting booth draped with red and white striped curtains, and marked his ballot. After doing so, he folded it and placed it in a box or can at the exit.
The precinct workers didn’t blink at allowing me to tag along with Dad. That wouldn’t happen today. They understood his desire to show me first hand how the process worked, how to properly exercise his citizen’s right and duty to vote. His modeling worked. I have voted in every election I could since I registered at age 21, the legal Ohio voting age then.
My parents also did their civic duty by working as precinct workers. Dad was a precinct committeeman. My wife’s parents also served as poll workers.
Dad actively campaigned for particular people he wanted in office. I even volunteered to post campaign signs for him. In recent years, both my wife and I have served as poll workers. In fact, my wife will be a precinct judge in the Nov. 6 election here in the world’s largest Amish population. And yes, many of the Amish vote, even for president.
As a teenager, a metropolitan newspaper hired me each election to check particular precinct tallies, which were simply posted on the door of the polling place. Long before the computer and Internet age, hand-tabulated results were phoned in from a phone booth to gauge trends and declare winners and losers.
Today, things are so much different and sometimes difficult.
Concerted efforts have been made to insure that voters are who they say they are, despite little evidence of past voter deception or fraud. Fortunately in most cases, those attempts have been overturned by the courts. Professional political pollsters churn out poll after poll, week after week to tell the public what they are thinking. Politicians and their teams of advisors live or die with every revelation. News media lead with the poll results.
Being inundated with constant slanted political rancor has its ugly consequences. Heated discussions transpire on social media, and the “conversations” can get ugly and are not very social at all.
That said I realize there is no going back in time. Heaven forbid we return to those days of smoke filled room decision-making. Instead of paper ballots and canvas curtains, we now have programed cards and touch screen voting. But still we vote.
I am extremely thankful for the exemplary lessons my folks provided in what it means to be a citizen in this great country. Each of us simply needs to do our part in making this convoluted world a better place. To do that, we must keep moving forward.
I hope that means in part that the mailed partisan circulars will greatly decrease and the annoying phone calls will soon cease.
This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012
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