Commentary: Public attitudes about voting | KERA News

Commentary: Public attitudes about voting

Dallas, TX –

So this is how it feels to live in the epicenter of presidential politics. Last week, I literally ran out the front door and in 20 minutes met up with the crowd hoping to see Senator Barack Obama at Reunion Arena.

Less than 48 hours later, I packed the kids in the car, drove a mile, parked, and then stood shivering at an outdoor rally for Senator Hillary Clinton. By the time we had returned home from the rally and a trip to the library, both Obama and Sen. John McCain had called and left messages asking for my vote.

I love this. After almost 20 years in Texas, presidential candidates have finally come a-courtin'. This wallflower's finally being asked to dance - and there's much to like about all three suitors. This is voter heaven.

Months ago, my attitude was completely different. I'd vowed to pay no attention to the primaries until March. They diverted attention away from local and state issues and races. And these were starting way too early, sucking up far too much money, and including too many one-issue wonders. This looked like an election cycle in which Texas and other late-voting states would, once again, be irrelevant to the final outcome.

But I've come around - sort of. It's nicer to be wanted than ignored. It's good to see candidates in person without forking over a $500 donation. I appreciate states like Florida and Michigan for pushing their primaries earlier, which had the unintended effect of making late states matter.

And yet - and yet - the emphasis still seems misplaced. It's like one of those super-elaborate, obscenely expensive celebrity weddings that ends in divorce a year later. There's too much focus on the ceremony, not enough thought about the marriage to follow.

Campaigning isn't governing. Good governance, like a good marriage, is all about process. Negotiation. Compromise. Fighting fair. Treating one another with respect. We need a president - and an electorate - to value those things as much as they value victory.

I stood on the bridge - the same bridge where Dallas Police Sr. Cpl. Victor Lozada would die while escorting a candidate's motorcade - and watched the crowd converging for the Obama rally. It was exciting. The people weren't there for a sporting event, or a religious revival, or some quack motivational speaker who claims he can teach you how to get rich. They were there to be part of the democratic process.

But only one candidate can ultimately win. What happens to all this energy, this willingness to work? Will it all just evaporate? Will the campaigns inflict wounds too deep to heal? After November, will we plunge again into a political snakepit? Or will the candidates, winners and losers, find a way to channel this enthusiasm into a renewed commitment to civic life and our national ideals?

Living in the epicenter of presidential politics has improved my attitude about the process and the future president. For our country's sake, I want the next president, whoever it is, to succeed.

The winner will need Abraham Lincoln's generous attitude toward his opponents, "with malice toward none, with charity for all" to be able to lead the nation.

And it wouldn't hurt if we, the people, adopted that attitude, too.

Jennifer Nagorka is a writer from Dallas.

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