I just signed up to contribute $25 a month to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. I rarely contribute to election campaigns, never mind get physically involved in them. For probably a third of my adult life I haven’t been registered to vote. But I’ve rarely been uninvolved in politics. Politics is everywhere.
When I vote in state or national elections, it’s usually for the Democratic candidate. When I don’t, I’m either voting third party or abstaining. Since I live on a blue island in a blue state, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that most people I know vote for the same candidates I do. When you consider what a diverse lot we are in terms of politics, values, and background, you have to wonder how much “I usually vote Democratic” says about a person.
Or, for that matter, “I usually vote Republican.” Most of us most of the time vote pretty much like most of the people around us vote.
Local elections are nonpartisan, which is to say that candidates don’t run as members of this, that, or the other party. At the state and federal level, you only see the players on TV or at formal occasions. Party affiliation becomes a shorthand to tell them apart. Before local elections, you see the candidates in the grocery store, at the movies, on the street, at social gatherings. They may be your friends, your neighbors, your relatives, or the friends, neighbors, and/or relatives of people you know pretty well. This complicates things in mostly good ways, like it’s hard to muster sustained loathing for someone you’re only two degrees of separation from.
In local elections, party affiliation is pretty much a non-issue.
In all the Martha’s Vineyard Commission meetings I’ve been to in recent months, I didn’t once speculate about the party affiliation of the commissioners. I have, however, formed definite impressions of most of them, based on what they said and how they said it, what they didn’t say, and their apparent attitude toward the public, among other things. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if virtually all of them, like me, vote Democratic most of the time. What does that tell me about them? Not nearly as much as what I observed firsthand.
So it makes me a little nervous contributing money to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign when all I know about her is what I read in the news media and watch on YouTube. I was all ready to sign on with John Edwards when he dropped out of the presidential race and then turned out to be a schmuck. We’ll see how it goes this time.