I am usually a decided voter long before I enter the polls. This year I was a decided voter, until I was not. Until my preferred candidate withdrew from the race, after the nomination deadline – leaving me yet again, undecided, except for clear knowledge of who I would not vote for. I brought both my children with me – my daughter for the second time, and my son for the first time. I entered the gym of my daughter’s school and approached the table where I was directed to present my voter registration card and ID. The election worker neatly crossed my name off with a ruler and handed me a ballot. I proceeded to the box, and unfolded the ballot. I checked to ensure it was as it should be – unmarked. I then made a choice, my pencil alternating between two of the candidates before I clearly marked an X beside one. I folded my ballot again and put it into the box - narrating the process for my daughter.
Her name was still on the ballot – there was no prominent notice of her withdrawal at the polling station I attended. Momentarily, I entertained the idea of marking my “X” there despite knowing that she had withdrawn. I felt remorse and a degree of anger – after all, her reason for withdrawal was that comments she had made on facebook had been taken out-of-context and paraded about. It was not anything that she had done in the course of her work, nor in the course of her public duties – but rather her private life that had put an end to her political career. Further, it was comments made years before she was a candidate – comments that may not have even reflected her current beliefs. Comments that should have been given the same amount of deference as comments made at a dinner party.
And yet, she withdrew.
I still wanted to vote for her – for her party – in some measure because of what had happened. I wanted to vote for her, because, I believe people have a right to their personal lives – even and perhaps especially those who run for office. I wanted to vote for her, because, I believe people should be able to “live out loud” – and that their careers, their actions in public – should speak much louder than what they might have said or wrote in their private lives (including on facebook with the intended audience of friends and family). I believe that people continue to mature – that the views once held, change over time – and that what matters, truly, is a willingness to grow and learn from one’s experience. Her name was the one I wanted to mark my “X” beside – even though she withdrew.
If only she had not withdrawn. If only the party had stood behind her in some measure. If only…
Because, those who express themselves are at least willing to have their views challenged. They are at least willing to let it be known what they believe, and often why. The candidates with facebook pages are not the ones to be feared – rather, it is, the candidates who live their lives in guarded fashion who are worthy of skepticism. Those who dare not speak what they think, because of the political repercussions – for they are not willing to have their ideas challenged. Do not be fooled, guarded candidates still hold personal beliefs and opinions, but unlike those who post to facebook, they are not willing to have those beliefs challenged.
If we want a transparent government, we could start by supporting those who live their lives transparently.