On Tuesday, people concerned about the fate of this country and their state will head to the polls and vote. Some will enter the voting booth well informed and prepared to select the best representatives for the task ahead. Others will walk into the booth ill prepared, having done no homework or applied any critical thinking to their selection.
There will also be voters who will vote straight party ticket, right down the line, Republican or Democrat. There is a clear likelihood that more people will sit this vote out than will participate in the election process, which is a shame. With all that said, what do this year’s midterms hold for us?
You cannot be from New Hampshire without the “politic bug” infecting you eventually, often at a young age. Many of my schoolmates who had Mrs. Hopley as their sixth-grade teacher at Sherburne School know exactly what I mean. Mrs. Hopley was an incredible teacher who instilled in us the important role that every (I mean every) American citizen has when it comes to our elections. Every election Mrs. Hopley would have her sixth-grade class run a mock election. Mrs. Hopley would turn her class into election central; campaign signs, mock ballots and cardboard voting booths, visiting politicians, homework assignments on the politicians and the issues. Each student would serve as a campaign manager for a particular candidate of their choosing. My candidate was Dudley Dudley.
Each student was graded on their participation in the process, the student’s understanding of their selected candidate, the positions held by the opponent, and the manner in which they ran their campaign. Party affiliation and whether your candidate won or lost were not relevant. It was the integrity of the process and your passion for the candidate you represented that mattered the most. No backstabbing, no negative campaigns, no juvenile antics, and no biased press reporting. Just two candidates and their positions on the issues affecting the electorate: the student body of Sherburne Elementary School.
Each candidate came to our school to meet the students and answer their questions, and to my classmates’ credit, he or she was asked tough but pertinent questions. Looking back, after having been involved in campaigns as an adult, I actually believe the candidates preferred the process we put before them than the process our society has created today. Maybe nostalgia has gotten the better of me, but I believe the students did a better job at running campaigns and elections, and the candidates were better for it. There was no “War on Women,” Koch Brothers, sex scandals, class envy, identity politics, or candidates questioning the patriotism of their opponent. Candidates were asked about the Vietnam War, the resignation of Nixon, the Seabrook nuclear power plant, and whom they were supporting in the next presidential election.
Candidates did not waffle or divert from the topics. They answered the questions as they were asked, and if they did not, the students would push them. The environment was conducive to a simplicity missing from modern election cycles. Free from overbearing campaign operatives and nonsensical distractions. The only press was the school newspaper, and they only wrote down what the candidate said. I learned more about what to look for in a candidate and how campaigns should be run in Mrs. Hopley’s class than I have learned from actually working in a real campaign machine, and for that I will always be grateful. I am proud to say Dudley Dudley was a great candidate and very engaging, and that she won by a landslide. Dudley would go on to have a fulfilling career in New Hampshire politics, and serve her constituents with integrity. I like to believe the students of Sherburne Elementary School played a part in that, and wish more candidates had gone through that process.
Looking back to my days in Mrs. Hopley’s class, I cannot help but be disappointed with today’s election process. Misinformed or disenfranchised voters, party machine loyalists, ill-prepared candidates, political propaganda, negative and dishonest ads, and a free press corrupted by their own biases. I am sure these elements have always been a part of modern political campaigns, and I might just be hypersensitive to these unhelpful aspects of elections. However, we would be unrealistic if we believed, regardless of our political affiliation, political philosophy, or political indifference, that the process has the best interests of the voters in mind.
There is very little anyone can say or do over the next 48 hours to change your mind. I could have told you whom I was voting for, and why. I could have written a critical (but factual) article focusing on a candidate(s) which the rest of the media ignored. However, before you cast that ballot, are you sure about the answers to key questions? Why this candidate? Why am I voting? Why am I not voting? Do I really know where each candidate stands on the issues important to our state and country? Is the candidate honest? Have I been duped by political propaganda and misinformation?
Without knowing it at the time, this is what Mrs. Hopley was trying to teach us, to be critical thinkers and vote with both our heart and mind. Simple? Yes. Naïve? No. We learned how to be better citizens and informed voters.
This Tuesday, vote with your heart and mind, and remember you are one person who holds a great deal of power in your vote. Choose wisely.