Frogs, sacrificial lambs make strange political bedfellows

I was born into a political family and admit to being that rarest of breeds: a moderate Republican. I vote in every election because, if I didn’t, I’m convinced the earth would be knocked off its axis by the spinning of my deceased forebears.

My paternal great-great-grandmother Mary was active in the movement to gain women the right to vote and, when solicited by her church to bake a chicken pie to feed the people on election day – (Note: where is the separation between church and state?) – confided in her journal, “If our minister is too conscientious to vote for women’s suffrage, the church may bake its own chicken pie!”

My father served our city as councilman and city commissioner and our state in the Legislature. One long-ago election day, Dad and his friend Charlie, also in the Kansas House, were asked to transport a tiny elderly woman across the street to the school so she could cast her vote. No wheelchair was available, so the men manipulated their arms into a chair seat and she wrapped her arms around their shoulders. Halfway across the street, she said to my father, “You’re such a nice man and I really wish I could vote for you, but I can’t because I’m a Democrat.”

Dad really was a nice man, too, because – instead of dumping her in the street – he and Charlie took her into the school, waited for her to vote for Dad’s opponent and then carried her back to her home.

My friend Darlene, who grew up in Oklahoma, is still rankled about the political party that convinced her father, then police chief, to run for sheriff. Shortly before the election, he realized they expected him as sheriff to look the other way while they bootlegged booze in a dry state. When party bosses learned that he wouldn’t cooperate, they withdrew their support, and his political aspirations went down in flames. Darlene sat on the courthouse steps and cried when her dad lost that election.

When I served as manager of local GOP headquarters for several elections, there was – and still is – a practice by both political parties to recruit what I call “sacrificial lambs” to fill spots on the ballot. I hated that practice then, and I hate it now. Such candidates have little chance of winning because they’re pitted against strong incumbents, but they work very hard against overwhelming odds and are sorely disappointed when they lose.

I was at the courthouse one night and watched the votes tallied in an interesting election where people opposed to the South Lawrence Trafficway (still not complete) put an amphibian named Agnes the Frog on the ballot to run against a popular incumbent county commissioner. The commissioner soundly defeated the frog. Meanwhile, our party’s sacrificial lamb was trounced by his opponent, an incumbent state representative.

Our young lamb looked so woebegone that I approached him and said, “You ran a good race, but it’s almost impossible to beat an entrenched incumbent.”

“I know, Marsha,” he replied, “but the FROG got more votes than I did!”

The frog in question was at the courthouse in full costume and – while the mask made it hard to read the amphibian’s emotions regarding her trouncing – I since have steadfastly believed that all sacrificial lambs should be frogs.

There are two types of politicians: those who want power and acclaim and those who wish to make a difference for the better. Sadly, I believe the latter type is in the minority. My friend Joann worked tirelessly to make life better for her constituents. She was so popular they would have re-elected her indefinitely to the Kansas House of Representatives, but she chose to retire, saying, “I want to spend time with my grandchildren while they still think I’m cool to be with.”

We need fewer power-hungry politicians, frogs and sacrificial lambs and more Joanns.