I pulled into my driveway after the work the other day. There was a young man with a clipboard standing on the sidewalk. As he approached I noticed that he was eying back of my car and the sign in my yard. A buddy of mine is running for Supreme Court. I guess he was checking to see if there were any bumper stickers that might also give him some clue as to my political orientation.
The kid started asking me questions about the Democratic primary and my opinions about certain subjects such as health care and the bailouts of the "Wall Street Banks." I told him that I pretty much confined my political opinions to the ballot box and I bade him farewell. Undeterred, he continued to press me concerning the issues of the day, at least the ones he was interested in. He handed me a flyer. I handed it back.
"You must not have heard me Son," I said as I cut him off. " This conversation is over and you are leaving."
He glared at me for a second. But leave he did and I stood in my yard as he went to bug my neighbors down the street to the West of me.
I ran into one of my political friends in the grocery store yesterday. I told him about my run-in with the canvasser. He rolled his eyes.
" Have you gotten one of those polling type calls yet?" he asked. I told him that I do not pick up the phone if I don't recognize the number. As far as I am concerned, whoever invented Caller ID is way overdue for the Nobel Prize.
" The Unions are all calling on behalf of Halter. If you give them an answer they don't like or if you tell them you support Blanche or even if you tell 'em you don't want to talk to them, they start arguing with you. This has got the Chamber worried. I hear they are gonna run ads on their own in the Primary on behalf of Blanche which has never happened before."
I told him that I have gotten to where I hate politics and the election season.
" This Tea Party shit has gotten outta hand," he replied. " I know more politicians in both parties who have told me that they aren't running again or that they aren't going to stay in politics for long. The constant harassment 24/7 from people that aren't even in your State or District is driving a lot of people that would consider themselves pretty conservative out of public life. It's crazy."
It is crazy. People have a right to believe whatever they want. The Constitution gives each American the right to petition the Government for redress of grievances. But it is another entirely to attempt to harass and intimidate those who don't share your particular persuasion. Because it tends to have a chilling effect on those who stand for public office. And even worse, it tends to encourage the type of candidates who would pander to these people. There are a couple of them now that are running for Congress. I won't mention them but they know who they are.
The sort of incivility that was displayed in the Town Hall meetings about Health Care Reform also tends to empower unstable people with a litany of grievance. I am familiar with a pro se litigant who has wasted much money on filing fees and postage suing various businesses and government entities that have allegedly done him wrong. These pleadings, uncontaminated by merit though they are, used to be amusing. But his filings have recently become increasingly infected with apocalyptic language and vague references to "taking up arms" and identification with the Tea Party movement.
Lunatics do not tend to identify with the League of Women Voters. They are, however, more likely to attain class consciousness with the disaffected cranks in "movements" like the Tea Party.
But enough about them. They fact that these kind of tactics have infiltrated the mainstream even slightly is depressing. As he wheeled his cart away my buddy asked me to look at the calls on my landline when I got home. I did. There were 9 calls from 1-800 numbers and 2 from pollsters in the last 4 days. And this is just the Primary!
After my confrontation with the kid I left my house to walk up to the gym. I saw him watch me from down my street as I headed up the hill. When I came home the flyer I did not want was stuck in my door.
They say that all political advertising is for that one or two percent that are undecided. Well, all the ads and aggressive door-to-door canvassing in the world won't change my mind about anything.
They can piss me off though. I wonder what percentage of the electorate I happen to represent?