Support Donald Trump? Here’s What Else You’re Supporting

American-flagEvery election season, it seems we find out more about our friends than we ever cared to know. We find out who is passionate and who crosses the line into bullying. We find out who stays up to date on current events and who simply spouts off one talking point that they heard while flipping channels.

It can be illuminating and educational. This year it’s all of that and more. It’s downright depressing.

According to a Facebook app that combs through your friends to tell you how many “like” Donald Trump, 24 people I know have given a thumbs up to the candidate who turned a presidential debate into a discussion about his private parts.

The app is like Pandora’s box. Once you’ve clicked, you’ll wish you hadn’t. [Read more…]

If You Vote by Sign, Don’t Bother Voting

voting day

For weeks now, we’ve all driven around the county and seen the same things over and over and over again.

Vote for Joe!

Re-elect Jim!

Susie’s the one to turn this place around!

There sure are a lot of campaign signs. So many, in fact, that I’m wondering: what’s the point? 
Pardon me for being a bit of a downer, but does anyone really read election signs and say, “Huh, my neighbor thinks Billy Bob would be a good councilman, so I’m going to vote for him!”?
Really?
Familiarity with your name is more likely to get you votes on election day, if only because a number of voters go to the polls without bothering to inform themselves. They vote for the guy (or gal) whose name sounds the most familiar.
I get it.
And I’m depressed by it.
If you can’t be bothered do much more than read some signs on your way to work and vote for the one who has the prettiest, the most, or has landed some prime real estate in you best friend’s yard, might I suggest you just don’t vote?
Blasphemous, I know. Voting is something all Americans should do.
And yet, voting isn’t JUST your civic duty, folks. It’s one of those rights that makes living here in the good old U.S. of A. so grand.
With rights comes privileges too, a need to actually do a little digging into the whos and whats of campaign promises, to figure out who is going to be the best for the job, not just who had the most money to throw at signs.
Here’s the simple truth: your neighbor might be right. Joe or Jim or Susie might be the exact right person to vote for this November.
Then again, your neighbor may be Joe or Jim or Susie’s second cousin who just didn’t know how to say no to setting out a sign without starting off a family war. They could be voting for Tom or Dick or Sally instead, and they might be right to do it!

You can vote based on all of those signs; if you must.

Or you can actually make your vote count.

It’s your right. Use it wisely.

What do YOU think when you see a sign?

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We Need to Vote Like We’re All Just Starting Out

Four years ago as we approached the election, I was anxious. I bit my nails and gnashed my teeth, and I worried that the nation I was raising my young daughter in would soon be ruled by a man who respected women so little that he’d throw Sarah Palin on the ticket in an attempt to woo our votes.

Four years on, I am once again worried about a presidential election as a woman raising a daughter in a nation. But I’m an older woman, a wiser woman.

I am, in fact, 30 this year.

How many times have you heard the saying, “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains”? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? Can you even remember when you heard it first or who is supposed to have said it (Winston Churchill, though the authenticity of that attribution is widely questioned).

I can’t remember where I heard it first or when. But at 30, I can still remember what it was like to be a young newlywed. We ate Lipton Noodles for dinner because they were 89 cents at the local Wal-Mart. We played the same game of Trivial Pursuit night after night because going to the movies was too expensive.

We didn’t have health insurance.

We couldn’t afford health insurance.

My husband doesn’t remember much about that time. Maybe it’s because he is beyond the 30 mark. Maybe it’s because he is a man, and the hardest part of living with no health insurance fell on me, the woman.

I was the one who found the lump in her breast.

It started with the pain. When I would put on my bra. When I would lie on my side. When my husband would move in to touch me.

I thought I’d hurt myself, only there was no bruise on the outside, and as I felt around, there was something hard on the inside. A lump. A woman’s worst nightmare.

And I had no health insurance, would have no health insurance for months more.&

I went for months with a lump in my breast because we couldn’t afford a doctor. If we could afford such luxuries, we would have been paying for health insurance to begin with.

I went for months carrying a lump in my breast and a lump in my throat, worrying, waiting.

Eventually, we got insurance. Eventually, I saw a doctor, and the lump proved not to be cancerous.

The swelling went down. The pain went away. I recovered.

I recovered, but I didn’t forget. I can’t forget what it was like to wonder if I might die because I couldn’t afford to get the care I needed to live.

I know I’m not alone.

The average American couple doesn’t start out with Mitt Romney’s lovely little stock portfolio (go ahead, fact check it, his “starting out” years were well-funded … this man never struggled) enabling them to avoid working for a few years. Most of us have the Lipton noodle years, the years when health insurance sounds luxurious.

I know that even the millions of Americans who are lucky enough to have health insurance have likely gone periods of their lives without health insurance, throwing the dice, risking it because the electric bill needed to be paid, the car insurance kept up.

If you’re under 30, you remember them. And so you’re a liberal not because you’re young and immature but because you understand. You are in touch with reality, you have not yet built your bubble.

If you are over 30, you may remember. Then again, you may not.

That’s why I’m scared this time around. Because we are four years on, and we are all four years older. We are four years removed from the problems that haunted us in 2008.

But that doesn’t mean they have gone away. Americans still need healthcare. American women still need access to mammograms, to preventative care, to have the right to take control of their own bodies.

Mitt Romney doesn’t care about any of that. He wants to repeal Obamacare. He wants to make it harder for women to access birth control. He wants to make those nightmares of the early years a reality for life.

I’m going to vote tomorrow as a woman. I’m going to vote tomorrow as a mother. I’m going to vote tomorrow because I haven’t forgotten what it was like to struggle, and I don’t wish that life on anyone else in America.

How about you?

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Image via alancleaver2000/Flickr

Don’t Let a 7-Year-Old Know More About the Election Than You

Romney toilet paper

I was sitting at my laptop wasting time on Facebook when I noticed that a friend had posted a photo of toilet paper with the Republican presidential candidate’s face on each piece. Suddenly there my 7-year-old was behind me, giggling.

“They have Mitt Romney toilet paper!”

I was less shocked about the toilet paper (really, have you seen what’s for sale on the Internet these days?) than I was to hear the words “Mitt Romney” out of her mouth.

“How do you know who that is?” I asked.

I confess my first fear was that some teacher had gone off half-cocked on a rant at school about the presidential candidates where my impressionable child could have heard. My apologies to said teacher (although, to be fair, I had no particular educator in mind when this vision formed itself). I was wrong.

She knows who he is, she was more than happy to inform me, because she sees him every morning in our living room, right on the TV that her father and I turn on. Oh, right. We watch the news while she gets ready for school. Mitt Romney and President Obama are on the news. All. The. Time.

I give her points for noticing. And for showing up her mother.

I was going to get around to the election at some point. Really. I just hadn’t exactly figured out how to bring it up.

For as long as she can remember, which really isn’t very long, we have had one president.

She’s 7. She doesn’t understand words like “binders full of women” or “birth control.”

So what’s a mother to say? The person who is elected next week could change the course of your entire life. He stands to appoint two Supreme Court justices over his term. He will decide whether to push us toward war or continue to draw down troops overseas. He could ensure you’ll be eligible for health insurance while you’re in college, or not. He could, he could, he could.

The words are fairly simple. I can tell her what I’ve told her every other time we’ve gone into a voting booth together: that we are lucky to live in a country where we, the people, get to have a say in who runs our government, and that it is our duty as good citizens to exercise our right to vote.

The problem is that I’m worried. I’m worried about people who won’t bother to exercise that right, and worried even more about people who will do so without bothering to learn a thing about the candidates.

I’m worried that my 7-year-old already knows more about the candidates than many American voters, way too many to count.

At least she watches the news.

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Image via Gadgets and Gizmos

Hey Newt Gingrich, It’s Not the Media

It was the cranky outburst heard round the United States. CNN’s Republican debate moderator John King gave Newt Gingrich the chance to respond to an ABC interview with his ex-wife, and the candidate blew up. His rant against the media for daring air his dirty laundry just a few days before the South Carolina primary vote earned its place atop viral videos for at least a day.

And it left journalists across the country heaving a big sigh and rolling our eyes.

The hubris, Newt, the hubris! We media-types have better things to do than pick particular politicians to smear. We’re too busy trying to ferret out the next hot story before our competition gets to it.

This is the lesson politicians need to learn: if it is there, it will be found . . . eventually. And reporters, be they small town media at places like the Democrat or “big league” journos at the New York Times or ABC News, don’t look at timing from a politico’s perspective. Instead we look at timing from ours. Is putting this story out there now going to benefit the reader, we ask? Is it going to ensure they know what they have to know when they need to know it?

That’s our job. If we find out that a presidential candidate’s ex-wife is willing to go forward with an interview that contains some rather explosive information, we have to question her angle. But once we affirm the information is the truth, the next step isn’t to consider what this will do to a politician’s career. To do so would be to allow bias to sneak into a job where bias is outlawed. Instead, we have to figure out how to get this true information out there as soon as possible. Because that’s our job.
Our job isn’t to slam politicians. It’s to share the information that arms voters when they go to the polls so they can make informed decisions.

Is it hard? Of course. We are not automatons. We have feelings, and we have preferences.

But the job of a journalist isn’t impossible for folks in other jobs to imagine. Take a grocery store clerk faced with a poor mom who is counting out her last pennies to buy her children dinner. Isn’t it her job to say no, I’m sorry, if you can’t pay, I can’t allow you to walk off with that box of Cheerios? And yet, she’s not without feeling. She’s human. But that’s her job.

When a slam against the media goes public, it gets a lot of nods all around. And yet, it’s a job like any other. And we’re doing it as much for the good of the world as for the good of our pocketbooks (which, in turn, goes into the grocery store clerk’s or the shoe store employee’s).

The media isn’t the bad guy. It’s the people who make the mistakes that we uncover that you should be holding accountable.

Image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr

The Most Freeing Election of My Life

If only election season were a season in the way that summer is. The long days and summer’s sun moved with blink and you missed it kind of speed, while the drudgery of listening to politicians backbiting drags on.

But this year, I have discovered how to make the headache end early.

I got my absentee ballot. More importantly, I mailed my absentee ballot.

Planning to be out of town on election day, I’d applied for and received my form weeks ago. But when it seemed my plans for election day were changing yet again, I hesitated. It was all marked, but did I send it in or trash it? Did I try to show up at the polling place now that I’d be in town?

The New York Board of Elections website offered little help (ahem, Albany . . . ) on what I had to do, so I bit the bullet. Last week I sealed my own fate. I mailed that bad boy to Monticello.

And the weight lifted right off of my shoulders.

At first I was sad to be one of those people who’d have to wait to see how much her vote really counted until days after the election had passed, but now I’m wondering why I didn’t do this years ago. It’s liberating!

My husband can gripe about campaign signs, but it just rolls off my back. The fliers can mount up in my mailbox, but I just chuck them in the recycling bin.

Politician knocks on the door, I throw it wide with a grin and announce, “You’re too late!”
Politician stands in town reminding me to get out do my civic duty, and I grin even wider. “Did it already!”

I did my due diligence. I checked out my candidates as I do every year.

But unlike every other year, I’m not sitting here weeks after my decision’s been made still listening to people trying to snag my vote. It’s too late folks. Decision’s done.

Election season’s over in my house!

Image via alancleaver2000/Flickr

Campaign Signs Aren’t Worth Your Vote

Here we go again. Election season. When the yards of the county are littered in signs proudly shouting “Look, I care! I’m involved in the electoral process.”

The signs are nice.

I guess.

But if every yard represented a person who attended actually showed up at a town board meeting to get a look-see at their candidates in action, the average board meeting would look drastically different.

Hey, it’s tough to get to every one. I get it. I’m paid to do it, and there are times where I have to call my editor and admit “I got a beastly sunburn because I was too busy slathering up my kid with the SPF 70 to remember to do myself. I can’t leave my house in the indecent state of dress that my raw shoulders demand. I’m not showing up at that meeting.”

It happens.

Life goes on.

But today marks just about a month until Election Day. There will be board meetings in the next month, dozens of them. It’s time to make time.

Not time for a host of meetings, but for just one, maybe two. Time to make a political decision not based on the prettiest sign in the neighbors’ yard but on the value of a candidate.

My old social studies teachers should be proud, because even today I marvel at the gift we have been given in this country: to play a role in picking our leaders.

And at the local level, I taken on a hokey sort of pride that I am not just casting a vote when I show up at my polling place. I’m making an informed decision.

We don’t have that advantage on a national level. We don’t get to show up at a meeting of Congress.  We can’t sit in on a State Senate session — or at least, very rarely can we make that trip to Albany.

But one night, one town board meeting, is just a few minutes away. Don’t you want to know what that sign stands for?

Image via hjl/Flickr

When One Small Voice Screams

I hate gloating. Well, OK, maybe not.

But when you write a “get out and vote” column every year only to have people blow you off, it’s nice to see elections like the ones we had last week in Sullivan County. Which ones am I talking about?

The close ones. The ones that are still pending final decision based on absentee ballots.

Stressful for the candidates. Good for the pharmacists (Tums sales through the roof? are we noticing a trend?). Even better for cranky columnists.

It’s easy to say you don’t have 5 minutes to swing by the polling place when you don’t think your vote matters in the scheme of things.

Setting aside that whole “voting is a privilege not just a right” thing (yes, that’s hard for me, but I’ll give you that), in a national election it can be frustrating to see yourself as one of millions. But when as little as 16 votes separate an incumbent from remaining on a board, you’re the loser if you didn’t get out there and pull a lever or two.

Of course that means I’m a winner – along with the thousands of other county residents who bothered to offer up that five minutes. Oops, sorry, gloating again. In fairness, I’m not doing it for me.

Like any good mother, I’m doing it for you (and the shot will only pinch for a second, the medicine will go right down, now get your feet off the coffee table). Even showing up to weigh in on the unopposed has its uses – in this case by not voting.

Or better yet, writing someone else in (and please, Mickey Mouse? Brad Pitt? it’s an election, not a game). What, you thought my “get out and vote” column was last week’s edition? Hey, there’s always next year.

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Party in the country bi-partisan style

If you haven’t been waiting for this day since about mid-summer, I’ll have to assume you’re one of the four people on earth who love listening to campaign ads where music should be and staring at garish signs every .3 miles as you drive down the road.

You’re forgiven – at least you care about the election. 
The politicians get a bye too – at least they’re trying to court our vote rather than expecting it. 
But a part of that is up to us. Because the local election offers an advantage none of us will have with a federal or even state vote. 

We couldn’t walk into Barack Obama’s law firm to find out how he was to work with, shake John McCain’s hand and suss out what kind of man he was. 
We had to depend on their speeches, their ads and media reports. 
Not so in a local election. Granted – you have our reports here; and we’d like to think they’re vital – especially those of town board meetings, Sheriff’s office arrests and district attorney dealings. 
They give you context.
And it’s up to you to put the pieces together. So where do you find the rest of the puzzle?
Find out if your candidate owns a business – walk in and see how it runs. Ask an employee. Better yet, ask a former employee. 
Know someone who had a dealing with the cops? With the prosecutor’s office? Ask them how it went down. 
It’s too late to sit in on another town board meeting before the election; but it’s something you could have done, perhaps should have done before this whole thing was over. 
You could have seen how your incumbents are in action, whether your candidates bothered to show to brush up and be as informed as possible should they earn a place in office. 
One of the most resonant complaints I’ve heard from a campaigning candidate this election season was that political lines have played too strong a role. People he considered intelligent weren’t letting him in the door to talk policy, facts and figures because they looked only at the party that had given him their endorsement. 
In a local election, folks, political parties hardly matter. 
We aren’t deciding abortion, healthcare or any of the standard Republican/Democrat issues. We are deciding the mettle of a man – or woman – and how responsible they will be with the fabric of our every day lives. 
Do you want a Democrat who can’t add 2 and 2? A Republican who can hardly spell his name?
Does it matter their party if they’re inept? Does it matter their party if they’re intelligent, forthright and honest?
It’s often said that voting isn’t just a right, it’s a privilege. And walking the streets of Hortonville trick or treating on Saturday with a Canadian citizen and an Italian citizen, I was reminded how lucky I am to have that right. They live here, but they can’t vote here. 
You can. 
So do them proud – make it a good one. 
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It’s That Time Again

One week to go. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading now.
I’ve watched the last few weeks of election season the way you’d watch a train wreck, with my hands clamped over my eyes, my fingers spread wide so I can catch a peek.
I can’t look… away.
It’s one-part neuroses, I admit it. But there’s a part of me that feels empowered by election season.
In one week, I’ll have a role to play.
So too, will everyone else in this country, but somehow that doesn’t change the little bubble of pride bouncing around in my chest.
And if that makes me preachy, what the heck. You’ve only got one more week to hear it from me.
So here it is: as reporters, we simply report the news. We aren’t supposed to believe that either side is right, and we can’t join your fight.
We aren’t here to drum up votes for your candidate. We aren’t here to make the good and bad balance out.
That’s for you to do.
And when we walk out of the newspaper building, we are doing just what you are.
We’re taking the information we’ve gathered and finally getting to form opinions.
We have that right too.
We have that responsibility.
See, I told you I’d get preachy. But there’s that bouncing bubble that just won’t stop. It’s the kind that reminds me of soda fizz when it gets in your nose. You want to giggle, but you can’t – it would only get worse.
And I can’t talk politics, at least not out in the open. A town justice once told me the irony of being elected was that he could no longer be political. He had to campaign to get there, but it’s a post that requires pure impartiality.
And so his opinions stay buttoned up. He has big ears, but a small mouth.
My mouth is somewhat bigger – helped along by opinion columns like this one – but the life of a journalist is a paradox.
We shed light on injustice; we don’t stand up for it. We investigate politicians; we don’t castigate them.
We promote the right of freedom of speech; but we can just barely practice it.
And yet, at the end of the day, we wouldn’t be anywhere if we didn’t guarantee another day of it.
Our impartiality in print makes us that much more vital to the chain of the electoral process.
So, yes, we walk out of the office and head to the polls. At the end of the day, we support one side or the other.
Would you really be able to trust us any other way?

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