This time next week, we’ll likely be huddled around our televisions watching returns still streaming in for the presidential election on Tuesday. (Incidentally, there’s a 50/50 chance that the temperature will be either 90 or 0 judging from the schizophrenic weather from the past couple of weeks.) Earlier today, my wife, my son, and I will have voted absentee. This will be my son’s first vote. He turned 18 in September.
Initially, I was very excited for my son to be voting in this important election for his first vote. That was, until, I talked to my son about it. He was really struggling with his vote. It didn’t help that I printed off and handed him a six page sample ballot. It was then that he realized that the November 3rd vote is more that just Trump versus Biden. All the way down the ballot, there are decisions and, as we all know too well, it is the local mayors and councilmembers and dog catchers that we have the best chance of affecting our day-to-day lives.
So I asked some friends what to do. Do I just tell him what to do? Certainly not. Do I spend hours trying to convince him? Eighteen year olds have the attention span of a hot gnat – so, no, that wasn’t going to work either.
It was Jason Kander who gave me the best advice. He said “My advice is just to tell him why you, personally, are voting the way you are. The more personal, the better. Not talking points so much as your personal hopes and fears about the future.” Basically, just tell him what I believe in and let the chips fall.
So here is what I told him.
Look for candidates who look to pull together rather than tear apart. Look for candidates who will lead for all of their constituents – even the ones who voted against them. You’ll likely never find a politician who tells the truth 100% of the time. It’s just not the way the game is played. But find a candidate who talks to you, rather than at you and, above all, find a candidate who believes that our community – as different as we are – can achieve more, together.
The world is fractured – some of it by design – some of it after years of cultural divisiveness. You can’t ask any candidate to fix everything. Frankly, if you can get your local or national politician to change just a few things, you’ve got a winner. Again, that’s just the way the game is played. This is why finding someone who can govern for everyone is so important.
I don’t know if it sunk in. I do know that he has been studying the ballot and looking for answers – just like we all are – on who can lead us out of this. An 18 year old’s issues are maybe more important than an old guy’s like mine. Climate change. Economic prosperity. Jobs. A smaller, more unified world. And, oh by the way, a pandemic. All of these have greater impact for the young than the old. Find a candidate who will help with those things.
Beware of the candidate who will say he or she will fix everything. He or she will not. Beware of the promise of the shining city on the hill unless that candidate is running for sanitation commissioner. The world will, more or less, be the same when that person’s term is up. The hope is that he or she will make it a little bit better rather than a little bit worse.
I may not have been able to give him the direction I wanted to give him. But that’s the nature of voting. It’s personal. I do feel proud that I was able to show someone who will be around long after I will know just how important it is to vote. It may not be the most impactful thing in making the world a better place, but it is the most important.
(You can always get important and impactful stuff from Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he is known as the legendary @TheFakeNed)