On Nov. 8, I will get to vote in my first American presidential election and, boy, am I excited. The day is going to start with a big plate of Rotary pancakes and then I’ll head over to my polling site. In preparation, I’ve been trying to be as invested as I can be in local and national politics to keep myself informed. And that, my friends, has been an interesting process.
For the presidential election, we turned to the three debates to learn more about the candidates. My husband and I watched the first two with Gabrielle, and the third with just the two of us.
I have to say, no Bravo TV show could have drummed up more drama. As I do with a juicy episode of “Real Housewives,” I spent the majority of the first debate with my hands splayed over my face. I winced so much I might have gained wrinkles. But we laughed as well. We yelled at the TV in disagreement on a few occasions. And we felt vindicated sometimes too, pounding our fists into the couch shouting, “Finally, someone said it.” If nothing else, Donald and Hillary provided a bounty of entertainment, so much so that Gabrielle, age 16, asked to stay up late so she could watch them finish arguing.
As for the content, I’m not going to comment, since I feel like who I vote for doesn’t have a place in this column. But the sheer amount of spite, haranguing, defamation and anger was fascinating to me. What the candidates actually said didn’t really matter so much as how well they one-upped each other. It was like watching a hockey game just so you could see the fights.
That, coupled with the jokes that surfaced over the next days following each debate, made for some riveting TV. I haven’t watching Saturday Night Live in nearly 20 years, but those debate spoofs had me rolling. In fact, I partly watched the third debate just so I could see how SNL would interpret it. Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon were absolutely hilarious. Then there were the Trump tweets. There were quips from President Obama. There was the #TrumpBookReport. There were the late-night talk shows.
In fact, all of it was so funny and so entertaining, it was easy, so exceptionally easy, to forget that, actually, the outcome of this match-up has very real consequences. What healthcare will look like. What will happen to Social Security. Who will be on the Supreme Court. What wars might and might not be fought. And, and I’ll admit this is especially important to me, how other countries will view this one.
It’s when you think of those things that the laugh gets caught in your throat.
Conversely, I’ve had the privilege this year of helping my friend Tiffany run for Somerset’s city council. A few weeks ago, she asked several of her friends if they would be willing to walk door to door with her so she could introduce herself to voters. So last week, Julie and I joined Tiffany on Grande Avenue and got to work.
No one likes to be interrupted from their day-to-day to greet a stranger who is, essentially, selling something, in this case herself. But can I just tell you? People were so polite. Most of them recognized Tiffany or knew her father or father-in-law. They wished her good luck. Many of them told her she already had their vote. Several of them asked how they could get one of her signs so they could put one up in their yard.
There was one incident with a woman who was angry the minute she opened the door. Tiffany introduced herself and handed her an information card. Tiffany works for the county and the woman had issue with that, telling her she felt that Tiffany being on city council would be a conflict of interest. Tiffany explained she would recuse herself in votes involving city-county issues and the woman, though unconvinced, accepted the explanation.
It was a bit of an uncomfortable moment, but you know what? At least it was honest. The woman had an issue and she raised it. And Tiffany had an opportunity to address it. After watching those dirty debates, I cannot tell you how refreshing this exchange was: direct, face to face, unrehearsed.
One of Hillary Clinton’s mantras has been that “Donald Trump is not who we are.” For all of our sakes, let’s hope that who we are doesn’t resemble anything about the presidential election. But that our true selves reside in the exchanges made on countless front steps climbed on an October evening as a candidate goes door to door to pitch herself.