Politico, shmalitico

I recently had a firsthand experience that outlines just how American politics has gotten to the vapid, too-partisan-for-words, what-about-us-in-the-mainstream, point that it is now at. The other day, my phone rang; picking it up, I was not surprised to hear a chirpy-sounding pollster/political operative voice on the other end asking me if I “had a moment” to answer a quick question. Before I could get the “Sure” out of my mouth, the young woman (no personal identification, party or PAC affiliation given) just jumped right in:
“Good afternoon, sir, I am wondering if you plan to vote on November second?”
“Indeed I do.”
“Great! Could you please tell me then, do you plan on voting for the Republicans, the Democrats or are you undecided?”
“Well, I plan on voting for some Democrats and some Republicans.”


“Soooo….then I should mark you down as ‘undecided’?” she asked as a statement, in a puzzled tone.
“Not at all! I know exactly who I am voting for.”
“O.K….but will you be voting for the Republicans or the Democrats?”
“Some of each, actually. I haven’t voted a straight party line ticket for many years.”


“So, I should mark you down as ‘undecided’.” She was quite certain this was the correct answer.
“No,I am definitely not ‘undecided.’ I will be voting for some Democrats, some Republicans.”
“O.K. – so you’re not undecided.” Her tone reverted to bewilderment, but at least it was a statement, not a tentative question.
“Not at all. I know exactly who I’ll be voting for. . . I can tell you I will not be voting for the Republican running for the senate.”

“O.K….well…” it seemed as though she was checking her notes seeking the proper response to my, uhhh…independent streak, “…you’re not undecided. “
“No, I ‘m definitely not undecided.”
“Thanks a lot, sir. Have a nice day.”
“Thanks. You too.”


Again, I don’t know what organization, party, PAC, coffee klatch she was representing – but there were a few things about the call besides political callers not identifying themselves that concerned me.

The first is that my answer should not have been seen as such an oddity. Surely I am not the only person in the country who will vote for – GASP! – the best candidate (as I see it) for the job, regardless of party affiliation – or am I truly the last of a dying breed? I wouldn’t think my answer should have led to such consternation; flustered the woman, I did.

Secondly, given the state of today’s political landscape, why was I only given the ol’ Repubs/Dems option? It’s 2010, for crying out loud – no Tea Party, Independence Party, Tupperware party – nothing? (Not that any of those entities have much to offer me– except I could use some new storage bowls.) It’s just the principle of the thing: only offering me ‘will you be voting for the Republicans or the Democrats’?  makes no sense, though I especially liked her old-school ‘THE Republicans’ and ‘THE Democrats’. then again, maybe having principles is too old school for the modern electorate.

All in all, a very strange call to be getting but certainly not the most egregious political intrusion of the season. Some other election year pet peeves? Let me count the ways…

1. Keep yours/ours/their religion out of politics – and vice versa. Yeah, we may belong to the same faith – heck, even the same denomination – but just because we share a pew on Sunday morning doesn’t mean I share your political stance. And it really ticks me off when you start talking politics over coffee, and you assume we all agree – because we go to the same church – and you continually use the pronoun ‘we’ in your pronouncements. Let me tell ya, guys…you seem like basically decent fellows, but there is usually no ‘me’ in your ‘we’.

2. Along the same lines is this sidebar to candidates; stop telling me you’re a ‘family values’ kind of guy. Who’s family? Aadams? Manson? Swiss Robinsons? It’s especially galling when you talk of ‘family values’ and your background includes dalliances with hookers, DUI’s or past domestic disturbance calls to your home. I’m all for redemption, but don’t play the ‘family values’ card – stick with issues, give me your solutions to problems – ya know, the stuff I really want my politicians to do.

3. Quit demonizing everyone you disagree with absurd labels: Socialist! Darwinist! Illegal immigrant supporter! Racist! Anti-business! Muslim! Not a real (fill-in-the-blank)! I know, I know – shock value gets attention…when you are in the sixth grade. Grow the hell up, people.

4. Oh yeah, while you’re at it, please drop the use of the word ‘pro’ from your electioneering. Pro life! Pro choice! Pro guns! Pro business! Pro environment! Pro being pro-whatever-you-want-me-to-be! Per the fine folks at Merriam-Webster:
“pro noun \ˈprō\ 1.an argument or evidence in affirmation 2: the affirmative side or one holding it.”

‘Affirmative side or one holding it’. By definition, you are implying that anyone who is not ‘pro’ like you is automatically ‘anti’ whatever you are ‘pro’ of. That is absolute nonsense. On any issue you want to be ‘pro’ on, there is plenty of room on the spectrum of logical, rational thought before you get to ‘anti’. (see number 1, above)

You get the idea. The whole black/white concept of American politics is ridiculous, dangerous and stupid – and the results are pretty obvious. Our national debate should be taking place in the gray areas where most of us live – somewhere between the I’m- pro-this-and-you’re-anti-that-so-go-to-hell extremists.

As the comic strip character Pogo famously observed, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”


34 thoughts on “Politico, shmalitico

  1. slpmartin October 28, 2010 / 8:53 am

    Have you noticed that the political campaign season is now like the NBA season…it never really ends.


  2. lifeintheboomerlane October 28, 2010 / 10:43 am

    Perfect. My latest post “Why I’ll be at the Rally to Restore Sanity” shows that I am totally in agreement with you. Enough is enough. Hopefully, tons of others will turn out for exactly the same reason.


  3. Jen October 28, 2010 / 10:46 am

    Congrats on being FP! Great post. “Tupperware party” was pretty funny.


  4. Mikalee Byerman October 28, 2010 / 10:47 am

    You are so right on in your observations — and truly, I’m stunned (and saddened) that your pollster friend didn’t know what to do with your comments.

    The black/white, right/wrong, pro/con mentality is what has gotten us to where we currently are — in a political climate characterized by hate and fear, instead of real people relating on a real level to the real issues.


  5. Kate Cook October 28, 2010 / 10:50 am

    You know, it’s funny — for a country that is so politically polarized (it certainly seems that way now, at least) I think just about everyone would have to agree with you after reading this. I know I certainly do! And as someone who worked in Washington, DC, I can almost guarantee that you were not talking to an operative, but to a volunteer, and she was flustered because your response wasn’t on her script – HA! I guess there is no box for “reasonable, informed voter with ability to vote without consulting a red/blue color wheel”? It’s unfortunate it’s come to that.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!


  6. Ava Aston's Muckery October 28, 2010 / 10:54 am

    I actually thought the political camapign season was like the summer television seasn, nothing new, just reruns of teh same thing over and over.

    Great blog today.



  7. Craig Maciolek October 28, 2010 / 11:23 am

    LOL!! Great Post! I have the same experiences. when ask if I am Republican or Democrat I say neither, and it is interpreted as unaware or undecided. but when I try to tell them that I have very clear and structured views about governance and society they cannot be bothered to listen for more than 140 characters. So, as a result, these days when I am asked that question I simply respond… I am for sound management.

    Have a good day.


  8. Deborah Leão October 28, 2010 / 12:14 pm

    We’re having presidential elections in Brazil, and as I read your post I was impressed by the similarities between our issues and yours. I wonder if it’s due to some direct influence, or if it’s just a matter of human nature. Anyway, very nice post.


  9. Allison Huyett October 28, 2010 / 12:28 pm

    red white blue woolly bear for you


  10. got2havefaith October 28, 2010 / 12:43 pm

    I don’t know anyone who votes party lines anymore. And I know a lot of people jumping ship and voting for 3rd party candidates. That’s how frustrated people are. I just can’t wait for Wednesday so that I don’t have to hear anymore hate commercials!


  11. margierigney October 28, 2010 / 12:55 pm

    I agree, just as soon as our hillsides are cleared of all the signage, it seems just a short time before signs are sprouting up again for the next town/city/Federal election. Is it just me or are we constantly preparing for the next one and never living the current term? With all this neverending transition, its hard to see or receive results. Everyone is so interested in the next election, hardly anything gets done.


  12. CrystalSpins October 28, 2010 / 1:27 pm

    I hate this crap. I wish there were a filer that I could put on my life that would automatically knock out all political anything. I don’t want to have to deal with it every time I get into my car, every time I turn on the TV and every time I walk into my office. I want to deal with it when I have time to give it all my due diligence, then vote and be done. My head hurts.



  13. kayroseland October 28, 2010 / 2:00 pm

    You’re on the front page of WordPress as I log in!!!!!!
    Way to go!!!!


  14. Evie Garone October 28, 2010 / 2:30 pm

    What didn’t she understand? Unbelievable? And can they stop calling with all their campaigning, please? I can’t wait to vote, get all the dead wood out!!



  15. blueintx October 28, 2010 / 4:33 pm

    I used to be vote for both parties depending on the person. But now, due to Nos 1-2, which are basically Republican approaches, at least here in West TX where I am, I tend to vote 100% Democrat, or if there IS no Democrat, whatever none Republican option is available. (Like, oddly enough, the Green Party in at least one local race!)

    People here tend to assume that if you go to a church, you must support DADT, oppose Roe v Wade and desperately want prayer in schools.

    No. 3 – well, they all do it. But I think that the Republicans have been a bit worse. And they are ALL Republicans really, even if they call themselves Libertarians or Tea Partierers or whatever.

    I loved the description of the pollster call. It was very well done; I could just hear her befuddlement!


  16. wadingacross October 28, 2010 / 5:33 pm

    Yeah. Sigh.

    I’m a conservative, but I’ve grown tired of the political game. I truly vote for candidates, not individuals. Sometimes my voting might look like a singular party ticket, other times I’m all over the place. I’ve written some recent postings about my disgust with the whole A/B political paradigm and how ridiculous it is. It continues because we allow it to continue. Every election I daresay most people place pragmatism before principles, no matter what your ideologies are. How many people do you hear talk about how they held their nose and/or see it all as a lesser of two evils vote?

    The Republicans and Democrats like each other. They need each other, just like Coke and Pepsi or Ford and Chevy. Do you really think that Unilever, P&G and J&J “hate” each other? Competition keeps them going. We’ve allowed the Republicans and Democrats to make us the football, when we’re supposed to be the coaches.

    As for political callers, my wife is making calls for a candidate but she’s given freedom in how/what to say. We’ve determined that the best approach is to make it two or three sentences and open ended, no questions. She will remind people about Nov. 2nd, that the candidate is running and give them the candidate’s website.


  17. Mayberry Mama October 28, 2010 / 5:43 pm

    Love your post! The rundown of your conversation is hilarious. I also vote across party lines. It’s hard though, to find a candidate that represents my views as a moderate. Politicians are either too far left or too far right. Also, too many are intent on furthering the agendas of their own party to be concerned about what is best for their constituents.


  18. perfectperfectionist October 28, 2010 / 7:27 pm

    Eloquently put – it seems that politics has only become good for polarising people or leaving people disillusioned and disengaged. Can we just solve the many, many issues in front of us please?
    Congrats on getting pressed.


  19. Boston Margy October 28, 2010 / 9:05 pm

    Good points there. Political discourse has turning into a slug fest, a war of the sound bites. Too bad. Our country needs more than that.


  20. jscottg October 28, 2010 / 9:35 pm

    I’ve known people who worked for polling companies. The group who commissions the poll provides the questions. Sometimes the questions stink on ice. Then the poor person making the call has to figure out what to do when s/he discovers the group didn’t provide “Both” or “Other” as a choice. I suspect your experience is Exhibit A of this kind of incompetence.

    “Who’s family? Aadams? Manson? Swiss Robinsons?”

    Hee hee hee.


  21. The Center Square October 28, 2010 / 10:44 pm

    Bravo. Very well said.


  22. Mark Kaplowitz October 29, 2010 / 6:04 am

    Good post. If you haven’t already, check out “Government’s End” by Jonathan Rauch for the economic reasons that led to our current ossified politics.


  23. Snoring Dog Studio October 29, 2010 / 6:19 am

    It’s the checkbox mentality. If you can’t put a mark in a checkbox, worlds collide, cats sprout wings, your morning coffee turns to blood. To make sense of all the craziness in politics and much else in life, it seems that everyone has to fall into a category. Sadly, many of the folks who call themselves independents or members of the Tea Party also engage in group think – thoughts and stances that can fall into categories. And the same goes with the other party’s members. I wish we could all wake up after November 2 and say, “Whew! Let’s not do this again! All this bickering and nonsense took years off my life.”


  24. Hunter October 29, 2010 / 7:24 am

    Great post, Mark!

    The apparent black/white dichotomy on politics that your pollster seems to live in as well as the assumption that many others must live in is just not the case. If you are interested, great book a couple years back that delved into similar issues; published in ’04 but updated to include the most recent presidential election.

    “Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America” by Morris Fiorina (with Samuel Abrams and Jeremy Pope)

    Best to you next week with your “best candidate wins” strategy. Who thinks like that?!


  25. Doug October 29, 2010 / 2:28 pm

    You end with the decade old Pogo quote…which suggest your wishes/request, dare I say, prayers…1-4 won’t happen.

    But good try and great post.



  26. sayitinasong October 29, 2010 / 5:10 pm

    Oh I used to get those calls, and you know what I do? Just hang up. It is no damn polling/statistic/political partie’s business whom I vote for…


  27. Mark E. Ladley October 31, 2010 / 11:10 am

    Great tongue in cheek article. The pet peeves you mention are oh so true.


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