“Mom, who do you want to win the election?” my favorite child asked.
“I want the American people to win,” I replied.
“But are we cheering for the Democrats or the Republicans?” my offspring pressed. While neither of my parents has ever voted strictly along party lines (or so they say), my dad treats his Rush Limbaugh book collection like a family heirloom, and my mom has an autographed copy of Jimmy Carter’s biography. Not surprisingly, they raised four independents.
“These aren’t sports teams,” I tried to clarify.
She (or he, I really can’t keep track anymore) looked puzzled by my analogy, so I elaborated.
“This isn’t like Kansas versus Missouri, where people make derogatory signs to carry at pep rallies or post sarcastic, belittling comments on Facebook, or make assumptions based on stereotypes involving missing teeth or unbearable egos, and then point out how tacky and classless their rival is.”
As the words left my mouth, I understood the confusion. I tried to better differentiate the two contests.
“You see, in a basketball game, each team only represents its followers. When Kansas wins, Coach Self has no obligation to Missouri. Jayhawks celebrate, Tigers complain about the officiating and within a few weeks the game is firmly rooted in past tense.
“But when a presidential candidate wins, he (or she … Betty White 2016!) makes a promise to serve the entire country every day for four whole years. Even people who did not vote for him … or her.”
Sometime before that last sentence, my child left the room. This did not keep me from talking.
“So while these two parties may have led their most passionate followers in opposite directions, we are all still sitting on the same pole. Luckily the pole stays pretty balanced with people spread across it like we are, and voters don’t need to choose, as political ads might lead us to believe, strictly between lowering the debt and protecting the environment or between civil rights and job creation.
“When everyone votes, no matter which candidates win their elections, we have a new mix of 535 people to weave the different priorities of Americans together into our original goal —”
“Defeating the Brits?” One of our kids, who had just entered the room, was deep in the trenches of history homework.
“Pursuit of happiness,” I corrected. “And when we recognize its foundation begins with the way we treat each other, not which party gets the most votes, then America wins.”
“Just like when KU beat Missouri?”