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Citizen Voices

Before visiting family in Ohio this week, I’d assumed this swing state—a battleground for Democrats and Republicans—would be a hothouse of political conversation. After hanging out with native and transplanted Ohioans kind enough to offer me a piece of their minds (with some coaxing and humor), only a few times did conversation turn to national politics.

Here’s what I’m coming away with:

  • Nobody’s really thrilled with either candidate, and have very specific problems with voting for either party’s representative.  For instance, the word “entitlement” was offered when discussing Obama’s ideas for the country.  The gist of the conversation concerned taxpayers paying for what others hadn’t earned.  This disdain for entitlement will keep people away from Obama in November, even when voting for McCain isn’t much of a palatable option.  (This seems like a mainstream opinion to me and not one relegated to just Ohioans.  The undecided vote at this point—including in our family an Army couple of two twenty-somethings and their little boy—may not vote at all rather than hold their noses and comply with an amorphous civic duty.)
  • Of those who have already decided on a major party candidate, many proudly display their choice with lawn signs and bumper stickers.  Most people who display a preference for president also have several other yard signs for local candidates. 
  • In small towns like Xenia, Ohio neither Joe Six Packs nor Joe Plumbers are, in fact, obsessed with either their guns or their religion. In the unscientific poll I conducted of the working middle class people living here, there is a certain pride and confidence from attending both Sunday school and keeping a Smith and Wesson (or its general equivalent).  But that pride is a far cry from being small town “hicks” that can’t think or make decisions apart from prevailing community values.
  • Illegal immigration is more than a fleeting thought, even in trying economic times in a state not bordering Mexico.  An ambiguous divide exists between being compassionate for people trying to improve their lots on the one hand, and understanding that Americans struggle to do the same thing without breaking the law to do it on the other hand.  (I would argue that although many would say they never break the law to make ends meet, there is still some fringe economic activity, such as pirated entertainment, helping some with tight budgets).

My biggest fear while here has been that Senator Obama’s insult about guns and God will come back to haunt him, and that his words not only struck a chord but then also grew roots.  If I had to guess, I’d say this state goes Red in a few weeks.  I hope this isn’t the case and can’t wait to be proven wrong.

Jessica Jondle
October 20, 2008 at 08:51 PM
Interesting commentary from the "front lines" - residing in a "blue state" (and in my case, not getting out of it too much) where our electoral votes are already decided, it's easy to forget how different things are in other parts of the country (even if we read about it in the media). I appreciate your first-hand observations. While I may be decided (and hoping Ohio goes red), I definitely feel for the people who, as you say, are not thrilled with either candidate.

Chuck from Escondido, CA
October 20, 2008 at 11:20 PM
Both of you seem stuck on this concept that there are only two candidates to vote for. There may be only two (or one, based on some polling) with any realistic chance of winning, there are still options for your vote.

Jessica Jondle
October 21, 2008 at 02:30 PM
Chuck, you're absolutely right - there are other options. And I respect those who pick the candidate who most closely represents their view, whether that means "going third party" or picking a major party candidate. I also respect those who - like myself - sometimes choose to go with "strategic voting" in order to avoid (perhaps) aiding your least desirable candidate in light of only two realistic outcomes. I wonder if, in the future, we might have a stronger multiparty system than we do now. With more people disagreeing with their parties on certain issues, it could happen. Nader and Perot both had reasonable followings, but still not enough to have a serious chance - only enough to (by some arguments) have significant influence on the outcome. (Which, I suppose, might be considered a "success" by some third party supporters - but it would be interesting to have a three-way race in which all candidates were viable contenders for the win.)

A Musing Reamus from Calsbad
October 21, 2008 at 10:59 PM
I do not think of the "right" to vote as an "amorphous duty." You get the governement you vote for. The "duty" as you call it is not something withjout a clear shape, form or function. It decides who you trust the most for the next four years. Vote third party if one must as in the case of you twenty somethings. It is possible that one reason the country is as it is now is that the trunout rates have been so historically and shamefully low that the current clowns have taken advantage of this apathy to set "our" agenda. Vote for a third party by all means, but vote. It should be a requirement not some "civic duty." If your twenty somethings think they can just take a pass on this one or any other that they find so difficult to decide, I am glad I will likely be gone by the time they have a chance to affect national policy.

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