We do not have to pretend what side of the political fence I reside on. Some would argue that I live on an acre so far off of that proverbial fence that I do not have a clue where it is. I am a straight-ticket voter, and the only time I have to pause in the voting booth for introspection is when I see some asinine revision to the Metro Charter that I haven't even heard about prior to voting. All the same, I am an informed voter in the sense that I do care about where a candidate stands on the issues that matter most to me.
Election day is this coming Tuesday. These are the "mid-term" elections -- the red-headed stepchild to the quadrennial elections that traditionally have much higher turnout. The midterms are usually about settling political scores with the party in power (see the "Republican Revolution" in the 1990s and the 2006 hammering that same party took that persisted in large part through the 2008 cycle). In Tennessee, midterms are also the time we hold the gubernatorial election, with this year's contest between Bill Haslam (R-Knoxville) and Mike McWherter (D-Jackson). That fact helps keep most Tennesseans interested in the midterm elections, even though they lack the glitz and glamor of a candidate on the national stage.
If you watch enough television or listen to any of the pundits, the talking point about mounting losses for the Democratic Party and the rise of the Tea Party take up a good portion of the conversation. You can take that to absurd extremes and assume that Democrats are running away from their own party affiliation and that not receiving a Tea Party endorsement is the kiss of death for a Republican Party candidate. But in politics, things are never as good or as bad as they seem. We also live in time where a good story line is likely to trump the data or polling behind it. We have become such an entertainment-driven culture that our news has to have drama to it, or else we will simply turn it off.
Candidates have taken to calling this period of time "silly season." This is the time when emotions run high, the truth is difficult to find in all the rhetoric and a convenient falsehood is all part of the game. The sad thing is that good, honest people who just want to go to work for their neighbors as an advocate in the halls of power -- be they Republican, Democrat or in between -- are going to have their reputations damaged for political gain. I have a lot more respect for the woman or man who loses an election but keeps their dignity that the other way around. I believe in this cycle, there will be a number of people who will not win on election day, but can still sleep soundly with a good conscience.
I can acknowledge that the general sentiment of your average voter ranges between "frustration" and "disappointment." The reasons for that are different for each person. I sat in an insurance coverage meeting where some political rhetoric was tossed around because of the rising premiums. The natural correlation was to simply attribute the increase in costs to the reform act passed earlier this year. I sat back quietly thinking about how my premiums at the previous employer had jumped by a similar factor even before the new law was signed, and that I was still paying considerably less for the same coverage that I had in mid-2009.
Someone once told me the reason that we do not cast our ballots the day after April 15 is because none of the incumbents would ever be reelected. They hope that you have forgotten about being mad about the taxes you pay by the time the next election rolls around. I am far less cynical than that, but I also recognize that voter sentiment has a shelf life. This period of frustration and disappointment will subside on both sides of the political spectrum. I will simply gloss over the violence at town-hall meetings and on the campaign trail because I like to believe that Americans are better than that. We are still a country that selects its leaders with ballots instead of bloodshed.
I am not going to offer any predictions for what will happen on Tuesday, nor do I buy into the story lines that are already being crafted in newsrooms across the nation. Every election is different, but all of them play a small role in our continued formation of a more perfect union.