Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Let's Get Together

We are very fortunate, here in Cookeville, TN, and for those who do not know, we are a rather small community, located on I-40, about half way between Nashville and Knoxville, a good place to stop as there are several excellent restaurants.

I say we are very fortunate as I joined a couple of hundred local citizens in a "get together" for folks to meet and greet, aspiring politicians campaigning for offices starting in 2015.   In spite of the opinions that are fostered by the fact that about the only other time we really  get together is on Sundays, this gathering was actually, quite friendly.

Perhaps it was because the event was sponsored by our local newspaper, the Herald-Citizen, and they did a great job by arranging the room where visitors could easily move about the room and greet and actually speak with the candidates.  My impression was that all were congenial and careful to listen to the voters.

My experience in politics goes back many years while, as a college student in the 50's, I was chosen to work with a Senatorial candidate's attempt to unseat a virtual legend who had been in office for decades.  The campaign took a definite turn when our "elder statesman" dropped out of the race and it became a bitterly fought contest between the two runners up.  The candidate I supported was adamant in his demand that we should not only win, we needed to win in each of the State's 159 counties.  That demand opened the door for me to observe a wide variety of tactics that are used to demean an opponent.  It wasn't pretty but we did win when all of the votes were cast,

Then, I moved to California and was involved in another Senatorial race, but this one was more bitter than I had ever believed could be possible.  Bitter and dirty!  I had enjoyed the earlier race as a lot of the time, we were debating issues with friends - both sides seemed to understand that when the ballot boxes were closed, we could still be friends.  I was shocked to learn of the "dirty" tricks each of the candidates and their associates would play against the other.  It was not my kind of competition.

Imagine my surprise when I received an invitation to the national convention and met some of those who had been our most bitter opponents who embraced me like an old friend.  Fortunately, I was asked by real friends to help in surveying the voting possibilities in the area from which I had moved.  It was through these conversations that I learned how elections are actually, won and lost.

I thought about these experiences last evening as I moved about, greeting candidates that I knew and shaking the hands of those I did not.  All were congenial and you were led to believe they were sincere, a far cry from those old memories.  I have never hid the fact that I have supported one national party over another and as I saw their faces, I realized that I had not always been kind to some of these folks.
So, I purposed to greet each of the ones that I had held grudges against and apologize, only to learn it wasn't necessary.

It made me think more about our political contests in general.  The first national election in which I was entitled to vote was in 1952, a half century ago and I am proud of the fact I have voted in every election since then.  But I am sad to say, there is a great deal of difference in the way our national elections are run, from those early days until now.  Now, elections are bought by the one with the most money to "invest" in campaigning and many times, the money has little to do with the candidate.  It goes to the party in need of support in certain areas.  Rather that elections based on how "We, the people" vote, they are decided by the proverbial "Red vs. Blue" states.

Somehow, we have lost track of our need to vote if we are to continue being the "land of the free and the home of the brave".  I know, I have heard all of the excuses, but they pale in comparison to the fact that we may be abandoning the concept that every vote counts.

We need to wake up.  Yes, I know, there are reasons you may not be able to vote, but that should not stop you from encouraging your children, grand children, nieces and nephews and even your neighbors to do their duty as citizens of our great nation.  Register to vote and then, vote.

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