It’s election day. Across America there are hopeful hearts beating hard and fast as candidates for school boards, fire districts, state offices, Congress and Senate think, Wow! This day could change my life. Secret smiles bubble up because, at the end of the day, anything can happen. No matter what the polls say, the commentators, your best friend, or your mother, the outcome of the day is going to be decided by a vote of the people.
Yes, the voters. And while candidates may wake up excited at the prospect of winning, every voter in America is waking up thinking – thank God it’s over. The end of the phone calls, e-mail messages that you don’t open (Let’s see, do I know a Joanne? No. Delete.), television commercials that feed on one flavor – disgrace.
Disgrace is the last character flaw that can still be used to distinguish between someone who governs well and someone who cannot, apparently. In a time of Snookie showing her cleavage and Situation scoring with really stupid women; when Sarah Palin’s daughter scuttles her chubby teen-mom ass across a dance floor and makes a fool of herself; when a glib, self-absorbed polygamist can convince his fourth wife that love should expand (or, only HIS love, not hers) – disgrace? Really?
So the candidates drone and whine and dig up phony flaws and half-truths, accusing their opponents, hoping to paint them with the brush of disgrace. And others make good money – big money – mixing that paint. Because what we tolerate in Snookie or Kody won’t do for those we elected to office. Elected officials have one thing that no other celebrities have.
We hold politicians to a higher standard because they have power over us. When we get a babysitter and drive to the DMV only to find that it’s closed on the third Friday – that affects our lives. When we plan a trip to the park and the toilets are all broken and little Jason wets his pants – that affects our lives. When we try to get a permit for a deck and it takes all summer to get approval – that matters to us. When we try to find adult day care for our loved ones with dementia and all of the funding has been cut – that matters.
So we respond to the unpacking of a candidate’s character because there is still some vestige of hope that the people we elect to have power over our lives are a little better than we are, a little smarter, a little more stronger in character, more able to figure out right from wrong. More able than we are. Living lives slightly less disgraceful than our own.
But what if someone made a political commercial about your life? About mine? “Francine Phillips wasn’t thinking about taxpayers when she took the last peanut butter cup out of the Halloween candy cauldron. She was only thinking about the smooth, creamy mix of salt and chocolate melting on her tongue. Phillips should be ashamed!”
Guilty as charged. Disgraced for sure. I guess I’ll never run for office. But if I did, I bet I’d be able to figure out how to keep adult day care open. There’s the real disgrace.