Smile Politely

Reflections on a solid spanking

Wealthy Wellesley graduate moves to the Midwest because her husband gets a job. She spends decades supporting him while also forging her own career in politics. In the 21st century, she wins elective office for herself. By then she’s a grizzled sexagenarian with a reputation. In her next big election she loses, dramatically, to a youthful Illinoisan who goes on to be . . .

Well, this script worked for Obama. But then, he’s much smarter than I am.

I got creamed at the polls last week. So my plans for the next four years are considerably more open. I am open to offers of employment. Law practice, bartending, writing jingles etc. All offers considered.

I spent the last two of those four months of the campaign meeting the active voters of Urbana. It was great. I recommend running for office simply for this reason.

It helped that I knew the names before I knocked on the doors. Random door-knocking would lead to much disinterested response. Most people don’t care about municipal elections. I used voter rolls to determine the whereabouts of the 3,076 people who voted in 2005 and again in 2008. Then I went to meet them.

I wasn’t prepared for the experience, because no one can be. Until you go to the homes of strangers, and ask them to hire you to make determinations about their lives, you’ll never know how much fun it can be. You might even think it would be scary, or daunting. There’s some of that, too. But not much.

There was a downside. Friends disappeared. Almost as soon as the papers were filed, some of our friends began exhibiting strange symptoms. Whatever disease afflicted them, I assume it was the same with the daunting/scary visits. It may have been Partisanship. Worse, I think they suffered from Oligarchy. The idea that anyone (or any three) would challenge a sitting monarch seemed shocking, shocking to some. Others thanked me for making the race more challenging, more interesting, while telling me they supported the incumbent. The latter group has a better idea of what democracy is about.

The weird and enlightening aspect re: old friends is that involvement in politics makes some people feel they’ve got to commit to something (me), or reject something (Democrats, I guess, or maybe the incumbent personally). Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe it’s good to commit. Maybe it’s good to feel you’ve got to commit.

I don’t think so. But then, I’m a non-partisan, and a loser.

Author’s note: I asked if I could tell the story in a few parts, rather than one big column. It’s hard to get the experiences of a four month campaign into 2,000 words. I don’t think I’ll need too much more than that, because I hope it’s also interesting to read. So stay tuned to Smile Politely for installments. I don’t know exactly when. This is known as a “cliffhanger.”

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