…Sorry ’bout that.
You’ve may have heard. Todd Akin, running for Missouri Senate, made some incredibly dubious claims about women’s bodies, and now he’s on a quest to hijack American politics and stick his thumb in everyone’s eye.
To my shame, I admit I’m one of the quarter million Missourians who, just a couple of weeks ago, thought they supported Todd Akin.
It was an honest mistake. For real.
I want to take full responsibility for my part in this debacle. In true American political spirit, I hereby accept 1 / 250,000 of the blame.
But I’d also like to say a few words in my defense, and a few words of caution to the rest of you who are weighing the candidates in your states and the country.
A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Voting Booth
This whole mess started on Monday, August 6.
I was listening to the news on the ride home when a report came on that projected voter turnout in my state at about 18%. This, of course illustrates that even in our boiling political climate, laziness and apathy win out.
It was at this point I, as an exceptionally well-informed and involved American citizen, said to myself, “Huh…There’s an election tomorrow?”
I usually do try to go vote, and since only 18% of my fellow Missourians would be joining me, it would be an especially good chance to feel a smug sense of unwarranted superiority about my political knowledge and civic participation. I pulled on my special voting shoes and sweatband and warmed up my bubble-filling muscles.
The problem was I didn’t even know who was on the ballot! I did some quick research the next morning before going to the polls. Some races, I didn’t vote in. Some I did. Some candidates were locally grown people who I wanted to vote for, others I was barely familiar with.
Todd Akin was definitely the latter category.
Politics Get Personal
The last week has unfolded fast.
It’s not unusual for a politician to be the center of attention and scandal. Sometimes, it’s kind of fun to watch from a distance. “Ha! Look at that chump!” you say, as you point fingers and laugh as the “other” party deals with another embarrassment.
But it gets personal when the politician is from your state.
And it gets really personal when you voted for the guy who’s making an ass of himself. It turns out, I voted for a horse who refuses to be beaten to death, and it just shows his poor character.
But it gets really personal when you realize that you are implicated, because you voted for the guy. I’ve read the Twitter and blog comments, people from other states saying that I, the Missouri voter, must be a fringe, sick, Fox News watching right-winger, a teabagger, a lunatic, a dangerously backwards-thinking, misogynist, ignorant hick. As if every one of Anthony Weiner’s voters are Twitter-pervs, or all of Clinton’s supporters cheated on their wives…
Well, I’m not any of those things. I’m not a teabagger or a lunatic. I have a basic grasp of human reproduction. I’m not fully loyal to either party. And Fox News drives me as crazy as CNN and MSNBC.
You Can Fool Some of the People Some of the Time
Now, before you judge me, let me say this:
It could happen to you.
The candidates you vote for half-heartedly (or maybe whole-heartedly) could be an embarrassment. The country could scorn you as their one-time supporter.
And like most Americans, I made my voting choices based almost solely on the messages that the candidates wanted me to get. I read their pamphlets and listened to their soundbytes. I took them at their word. I put a checkmark on my mental checklist next to “Doesn’t make crazy statements about rape and then start a holy war to hijack American politics.”
But the edited, paraphrased, focus-grouped pamphlets and teleprompter speeches never reveal a politician’s character. You have to listen when they’re speaking off the cuff. Watch how they react when they’re backed into a corner and have to make tough choices.
We got that chance last week with Todd Akin. I have never felt buyers’ remorse so incredibly quickly with a politician.
Todd Akin will have no effect on my choice for President, or any other office. But I’ll be vetting my choices a lot more closely this November. I’ll be trying to look beyond the prepared remarks and campaign slogans. I hope you do this same.
Ever had buyer’s remorse with the people you voted for? Have you ever voted for a scandal maker instead of a lawmaker?