A few weeks ago I rode in the company truck with a workmate and we talked about the many election signs we passed along the way. Her knowledge of the candidates in the local municipal elections was limited to the name of one of the thirty hopefuls for council. I could name only a few more, and the candidates for school board were a complete mystery. This got me thinking about the electoral process.
The incumbents and candidates were all working very hard, but they were not in the workplaces of the voters. They went to a lot of public events and participated in forums, they knocked on doors, they answered questions at the farmers’ market, and they each had multiple online and media profiles.
The whole electoral process is very middle-class. It’s easily accessible to people who like to read, who use computers for news-gathering, who buy organic vegetables, and who go to community events in the evenings. What about the people who do none of those things? At the risk of over-generalizing, I wonder how many blue-collar workers and non-employed people knew much about the candidates.
I have been a white-collar worker for most of my life until now, and then it seemed easier to be in touch with political issues, events, and people. Lately, I have felt mostly out of that loop. I read some of the online biographies, and I had a list of names that I checked off as I found out who got my approval, but that’s as far as I went. I have a strong suspicion that a lot of folks don’t feel part of the process, and if they voted at all they were making some uninformed guesses.
It would be easy to call us lazy or apathetic, except that I and my co-workers are neither of those things. We work hard, we care about the things that affect our families, and we do what we can to be neighbourly. Somehow, though, the election process is only a small blip on our radar. It’s as though political activities are things we are subjected to, not served by; confused by, but not creating.
In part, my disengagement stems from the large number of candidates and the impossibility of ever figuring out if they’d make wise and fair council members or school board trustees. I’m also painfully aware of how little I know and care about the issues. I’m quite happy with the bike lanes, and I like the idea of planning for “legacy” projects that will benefit future generations. I even think the taxes are more-or-less reasonable, given the services they provide. I’d be happier if politicians saw their work as a public service, not a career, but on the whole I’m content with the way things have been going.
My co-worker, though was annoyed. She couldn’t understand why big money is spent on grand public buildings that she will never use, and she really gets ticked off when politicians give themselves raises while she can barely make ends meet. She has been completely uninvolved in the political process, didn’t know who was running for office, and probably didn’t vote.
I voted. I put my X by the names of the people who had a check mark on my list, but I didn’t feel as though I’d done as much as I should have. Mostly, I was just too tired.