I developed a love for voting before I could even vote. Growing up, my mother would always take me with her to the downtown fire station in Jackson, Alabama, where she would faithfully cast her ballot in each election. We would make our way behind the curtain and I would cling to her leg as she made her selections. I remember feeling a bit nervous during the whole process, as it seemed like we were doing something important, something that really mattered.
“Every vote counts,” she would always say.
The first presidential election I was able to vote in was in 1996, when Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole. That was 20 years ago. Wow. How did I get so old this fast?
In some ways it is hard to believe it has been that long. A lot happens in your life between 18 and 39. But in other ways, it is hard to believe it has only taken four presidential primaries and elections to have my idealism and faith in the democratic process stripped away.
As I ready to vote in my fifth, the hope and excitement I used to feel has turned into disillusionment.
Does my vote really count? Does it even matter who wins? Republican or Democrat, insider or outsider, Washington is Washington and it’s going to run like it always has and always will, no matter who is at the helm.
It’s hard to see how anyone can really deliver on “change we can believe in,” even though they all promise it, just in different packages. And it seems like even though the U.S. Capitol machine is not “too big to fail,” because they fail us all the time, it is too big for any one person to dismantle.
Of the outsiders, there is a candidate who is running on starting a revolution, but that ain’t going to happen. (Didn’t the last guy promise that too? Drank that magic Kool-Aid already. Trust me, nothing happened.) And there is a candidate who is essentially promising to burn the whole thing down, but he’s incinerating some of our core American values along with those promises. So the choices are none too appealing any way you look at it. I still don’t know who I am going to vote for.
It’s depressing. And it trickles down to races closer to home.
For instance, the U.S. Senate race. I can’t stand those Richard Shelby ads. They literally make my skin crawl. And I don’t think anyone should be in office for as long as he has. And yet I am still undecided on this race as well. The optimistic side of me wants one of his young opponents to convince me he is the right one for the job, but they really haven’t done a very good job of getting their messages out. Even in an anti-establishment year, which is baffling.
But nevertheless, the pessimistic side of me knows Shelby’s been up there forever and knows where all of the bodies are buried. And realistically, there are some projects we need down here and initiatives we need protected, so do we want to send a young Luke Skywalker before he learns how to use the force, or send Darth Vader back up to nasty Washington to make sure our interests are protected? Young, idealistic Ashley would have always chosen The Force, but older, disillusioned and more realistic Ashley is actually still thinking about going with the Dark Side.
These are the disgusting choices we have to make in American politics these days. I felt proud when I walked out of the voting booth with my mom when I was a little girl. Now I want to take a shower.
But one local race that shouldn’t require much soul searching or deep thought is the County Commission race for District 3 between Jerry Carl and Margie Wilcox. I don’t really know either of these two personally. Their supporters and detractors both tell you they are either the most fantastic person in Mobile County or the worst, depending on who you are talking to. I’m sure the truth is somewhere in the middle. But I think Jerry Carl is the right vote here, and my opinion on this one has nothing to do with either of the candidates. It has everything to do with our very flawed three-person commission system. We need a five-person commission!
OK, so it is no secret Commissioner Connie Hudson and Jerry Carl HATE each other. I am not sure they would even spit on each other if the other was on fire. But in this particular system, I think that hate is actually kind of a good thing. You see, it only takes two of the three commissioners to pass anything, from the smallest of small to the biggest of big projects, like the proposed $20 million to $40 million soccer/aquatic complex. And I have said before, I just don’t think two individuals should have that kind of spending power with the public’s money.
So currently, with Hudson and Carl having this adversarial relationship, they are each left having to woo Merceria Ludgood for her vote. And it actually kind of works right now to keep things in check. I mean, as well as this jacked-up system can.
But what if Wilcox wins?
It has been no secret Hudson is a Margie Wilcox supporter. She’s been campaigning for her and was seen at a debate last week wearing a Wilcox sticker. I am not really sure if it’s because she loves Marg so or hates Jer (I imagine the latter), but given the nature of this three-person system, I was kind of surprised Hudson would offer such overt support.
Because now anyone, of course, has to naturally wonder if Wilcox does win, will she feel indebted to her supporter/political ally Hudson? And will she feel obligated or more inclined to always vote with her? If there is even a remote possibility of that, that could leave an entire district without a voice because that would effectively render Merceria Ludgood’s vote worthless, as they wouldn’t need hers anymore.
And I just don’t like that possibility because all of their votes should count, right, Mama?