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Living in Society

Last Thoughts on Midterm Elections

Big Grove Precinct polling place at the Catholic Church.

Computers for the poll workers were set up below a large crucifix on the wall of Saint Mary’s Church. It was as if Jesus and I (the certified Democratic poll watcher) were keeping an eye on the proceedings. There was no controversy during election day activities. From news accounts, that appears to have been true across the state. When issues arose, the election system addressed them. It was a statewide Republican sweep, with a few exceptions, and that was that.

756 voters cast a ballot under Jesus’ watchful eye. As was expected, more Republicans cast a ballot at the polls on election day with Chuck Grassley receiving 478 votes and challenger Michael Franken 274 in our room. (In my previous post I tallied the main results). Voters have spoken, and that, too, is that.

Father worked as an organizer on the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy. I watched him complete mimeographed sheets with a generic grid for our block printed on it. He recorded the names and voting preferences for each property. When he finished our block, he got a clean sheet from the union hall to start another. Richard Nixon won Iowa that cycle.

I remember us discussing living in a Republican state with a Democratic president. It was a non-issue because we were part of a country that had 50 states after Alaska and Hawaii had been admitted to the union the previous year. JFK was our president, too, he said.

I didn’t understand in 1960, and don’t understand now, how voters could pick candidates that don’t hold similar values and would vote against their best interests. Maybe people have been dumbed down. Iowa is not known for having a lot of deep thinkers. According to a recent article by Samuel Stebbins, Iowa ranks among the least educated states. That has to be part of it yet is not the whole story.

Iowans are conditioned to accept a wide range of outrageous things and such socialization or indoctrination is a key reason for Iowa Republican successes this election cycle. How they got there goes back to the rise of right wing talk radio and FOX. The socialized modern Republican is a primary cause of the infection of social discourse. It feeds upon itself. More liberal people either don’t want to engage in this discourse or don’t have to. Living in a progressive or liberal bubble isn’t good either.

Toward the end of election day, some Republicans hung around the entrance to the polling place. I listened to them chatting after they voted. Most were not aware of any framework, just that their peers can carry on a certain conversation with which they agree. Politics was hardly mentioned even though there we were at the polling place. The subject of conversation did not matter as much as the fact of it. This behavior, of setting existential reality aside to focus on something else, is essential to Republican dominance in modern society.

As film maker Jen Senko pointed out in her book and movie, The Brainwashing of My Dad, this conditioning is reversible if we know how to do it. For my part, I don’t enjoy getting into conversations where participants recount what happened last night while they were getting ready for sleep with the television tuned to FOX News. If we are serious about changing society for the better, people like me don’t need to consume right wing talk radio and television. However, we have to enter into more of these types of conversations. In doing so we become part of the community. I believe our differences will be tolerated in civil conversations and that is better than not being heard at all.

There is a lot to say about the 2022 midterms. There is nothing else to say. I’m moving on to more productive ground as this plot needs to lie fallow for a while. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

One reply on “Last Thoughts on Midterm Elections”

Worthwhile line of thought Paul, perhaps more than “last.” I was politically engaged in my youth. My tiny town Iowa neighbor ran twice for state Representative in the 60s as a Democrat when I was a teenager (lost each race.) I continued into the early personal computer years discussing and reasoning with folks who’d likely be avid Trumpists if it was today. My Iowa dad remained an active Democrat until late-life illness, at least a couple of my sisters too. Around 30 years ago I left off any work, formal or informal, on my own to overtly convince or debate. I’d often get too worked up, express myself poorly, and increasingly there was no real interest in discussion, and my sense was that increased more and more.
Yes talk radio and cable news etc, and also the Internet. Most everyone has now found “experts” to confirm their prejudices or form them.
I felt too often back then like I was like a missionary (maybe it’s my preacher ancestors?) trying to convert the heathens that I loved, saw the souls worth of, and sincerely wanted to save. That was, is, a complex, uncomfortable thought for me, though I think there are existential issues we need to solve (as I’m sure you do) — but this introvert didn’t feel very good at the job. Nowadays, maybe a seeker or two comes upon something I do and a small bit of something I write or sing or present makes sense to them. At least a seeker comes looking for something, with an open heart.
I should have probably said this before I rambled, but thank you for your political work.

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