Friday, March 21, 2014

Choice, Doom and Grilling Season

You have to have a certain admiration for the well intentioned doomed. 

A candidate for public office showed up at my door the other day.  I wasn't expecting company, so I peered out from an upstairs window moments after I heard the knock.  Safety first.  No sense being taken by surprise in these troubled times. 

It took me a few seconds, sufficient time to decide that my freshly brewed Café Pilon was scalding enough to blind any would-be assailant, at least long enough for me to introduce him to the concussive possibilities of the Club Steering Wheel Lock nesting in my umbrella stand, but I recognized the fellow standing on my welcome mat. 

I ran downstairs and flung the door open, which startled him.  He greeted me with a wan smile.  There was a mixture of nervousness and hope frozen on his face…an expression that would not be out of place on the countenance of an inexperienced and introverted missionary. 

He started winding up, about to launch into his elevator pitch, when I told him that I had seen him speak a couple of times and was familiar with his platform.  That seemed to drop his anxiety level down a notch.   However, his visage sagged when I told him I wouldn’t be voting for him in the June primary election.  Nothing personal, strictly the business of democracy.  

We exchanged thoughts on the campaign for a moment and I wished him well with his door-to-door efforts.  He flashed a seemingly sincere grin, waved goodbye and began the trudge over to the neighbor’s house.

He was not a natural candidate by any means.  There was little sign of the “Hail fellow well met” spirit in him…that sense that he enjoys the campaign process: talking with strangers, listening to their hopes and fears, and asking them for their support.  Perhaps he did, but if so, he hid it well. And if he was hiding it…why choose that mask?

Of course that is exactly the point.   It wasn’t a mask. It was, or appeared to be, his authentic self.  He was running for the cause, not for self-aggrandizement, not as a stepping-stone to even higher office.  That last point is key because he has almost no chance of winning.    Importantly, I believe he knows that too.

Yet in the face of that, and despite lacking the “practiced voice of the seasoned campaigner” (see: Monty Python, Whicker Island sketch), he chose to subject himself to the rigors of electioneering.  He chose to give up his weekends and evenings to lurch from one doorstep to the next, gripping and grinning, probably risking exposure to a norovirus infection every 50th handshake.  All because he wants to advocate for a set of public policy solutions that fit with his conception of how best to promote the common good.

The good news is that such people choose to seek elective office.  He isn’t alone – which also bodes well for the health of the Republic.  In Howard County, there are other candidates who are running for one public office or another…candidates who are in it for the right reasons (or at least something adjacent to them).  Some will win, he won’t. 

As I look back on that conversation, as we stood there, 20 feet away from a grill unlikely to host a hot charcoal briquette for several weeks, I believe what impressed me most was his respect for the democratic process.  He was willing to endure the discomfort of campaigning and the near-certainty of defeat because of his belief that reform is possible through our system of government.  It may not happen soon, but perhaps in the future.  And that is enough for him to knock on doors today, tomorrow, and all through the election.

You have to respect that.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

1 comment:

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