Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Political Tater Tots

One of the most talked about topics after last Tuesday's Primary Election was the dismal turnout.  Statewide, 21% of eligible voters came out to vote.  From WJLA:

Among Maryland counties, Montgomery [16.2%] trailed Baltimore County at 24.6 percent, Anne Arundel at 24.2 percent, Frederick at 23.2 percent, Howard at 19.7 percent and Prince George's at 17.6 percent.

Democrats had slightly higher turnout, as noted by Senator Rich Madaleno on his FB page (source unknown):

Anne Arundel - 22.85%
Baltimore City - 22.75%
Baltimore County - 26.51%
Charles - 26.18%
Frederick - 25.05%
Harford - 23.77%
Howard - 27.77%
Montgomery - 23.90%
Prince George's - 19.46%

(And there goes Howard County, taking the number one spot.  Nice job, Team Brown/Ulman!)

Much of the talk about poor turnout and culpability for the same has taken the form of public shaming.  "If you did not vote while people in Iraq and Ukraine are risking life and limb to do so, you should be ashamed."  A bit of this is appropriate, but only a small bit.  

Voting, at its best, is a matter of inspiration.  The power once held by kings, revoked by force, returned to the people, and manifested in a ballot.  It is personal and public.  You can use your power to protest or use it collectively towards one of a limited number of likely outcomes.  But when you walk in that voting booth, regardless of what you do for a living or how much you make, that vote is entirely yours.

Turnout is a matter of touching on that inspiration.  If I may be allowed some weighty assumptions, I would say that voters in Iraq and the Ukraine have that inspiration.  Change is more tactile there; the need for change more immediate.  

The candidates on last Tuesday's ballot fell short on inspiring voters.  Campaigning for office has become more of a game of avoiding unforced errors than moving our community forward.  "Poll-tested" is an ugly word in the parlance of elections.  It means that a certain phrase has been run out at small gatherings, discussed over the phone with thousands of voters, gauged for "high positives", and then run out on to the stage as if brand new.  To give you a comparison, if restaurants were run like campaigns, all of their menus would offer hamburgers, tater tots, and grilled cheese.  That's it.  None of us would be particularly disappointed, but most of us would probably think "I can make that at home."

Don't get me wrong - if you belong to a political party and didn't vote last Tuesday, you let your community down.  But so did those of us on the ballot.  We have an obligation to offer new ideas, inspiring ideas, that move our state forward.  These ideas can be as small as prioritizing pedestrian transit in semi-urban areas and as big as streamlining the tax code.  2014 should be about tackling the challenges ahead and making Maryland a better place to live, but so much of it has been backward looking. 

If you're serving grilled cheese and tater tots, most of us can make that at home.

The goal of my campaign, between now and November 4, will be to inspire you.  Not just those of you who live in 9B, but anyone who reads this.  We will find inspiration in this election, whether they want us to have it or not!

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!