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3 men and an Election Day

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Election Day means the end of the debate for a couple of men I respect very much. Unfortunately, neither of them was on the ballot.

By Steve Doyle

Election Day means the end of the debate for a couple of men I respect very much. Unfortunately, neither of them was on the ballot.

To be sure, though, their views are aligned generally with those of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, which is to say the bubbles they filled almost certainly weren’t on the same side of the ballot.

It’s understandable, really. One of them has worked in the auto industry, and the other is a Marine.

One of them has supported the working-class issues of America, and the other has said a few Semper Fi’s over cuts to military spending.

One of them reads newspapers and watches the news religiously. The other is swayed more by statements of people he knows and Internet threads.

No, they are not politically aligned, but I respect them more than any two men on earth and for entirely different reasons, not that I think either should be president.

First, I learn from them about what is in their hearts and minds and what matters to them and why. They can speak with great authority on an issue, and I’m a good listener. I don’t join the debate except to clarify a point of error or perspective. And I certainly don’t always agree.

They aren’t swaying my opinions, and I’m not swaying theirs. It’s simply all about mutual respect, which often is lacking in political discourse.

All these differences sort of crystallized with me on the morning of Election Day, when, on the way to school, I asked my younger children who they thought would win the presidential race.

The 11-year-old: “I think Romney will win, based on what the kids are saying, and they probably heard that from their parents.”

The 5-year-old: “What he said.”

And isn’t that the way it is in elections? Isn’t it more about “what he said” than “what I think?” Certainly, it would seem that way.

I hear so many people align their votes based not on what they understand to be the issues and the candidates’ credibility but in what someone has told them to say.

Now, I’m not much on political influence. I laugh as much at the commentators on some cable channels as I do at the candidates, and I’m not talking about Comedy Central.

I won’t try to influence you – for one thing, I’m not that smart; for another, you’re not that dumb – and I won’t allow you to influence me.

I make choices based not on party lines but based on the most intelligent and trustworthy – trustworthy being relative – views on the issues I see as most relevant to me. For instance, I don’t worry much about the national economy, because neither candidate can do much about its real problem.

I’ve never voted party lines – as a young man, I cast a protest vote for John Anderson for president, the only person in my precinct to do so – and don’t really understand those who do. Blind allegiance has limits, I would think, although I’ve known many who qualified to be escorted by a white cane and dog.

But sometimes we also have to understand the process we endure to elect is not based on how the job is scripted.

My 11-year-old: “What would they do if there was a tie?”

Me: “That’s not likely, but the election really isn’t final until the Electoral College votes, and there could be a tie in that vote.” I explained in two sentences how that works.

Him: “Wow, politics sure are complicated.”

This is where I made my greatest contribution to the education of a young person:

“That’s not politics. That’s government. Politics is the way we elect people to govern. Politics is about the influence of what those candidates do after they are elected.”

He seemed to understand, but I  know a lot of adults who don’t.

Which brings me back to the two men I respect. I’ve known both of them for all of my life and most of theirs. I’ve seen how they have formed opinions on candidates and the forces that inspired those opinions.

I don’t know how one of them voted, because I didn’t ask, but the other has been quite vociferous on Facebook.

One went to the poll and stood in line, and the other hit send on an E-mail ballot from Afghanistan.

If you sat down and discussed politics with these two men, you might not know they were related. One on the moderate left, the other on the extreme right.

And me, right in the middle.

After Election Day, they both have big days this week.

My Dad celebrates a birthday today, and my son will celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday on Saturday at Camp Geronimo.

Yes, I respect these two men and their views on most everything.

But I would never try to tell them how to vote.