The recent report of our President calling the Georgia Secretary of State and threatening him to “find me some votes” made me wonder if I’d messed up some years ago when I lost my last election.
It was a close race. The local paper even called me at midnight to get a quote. They said they were going to call me the winner. I was watching the returns real close. “I don’t think you ought to do that.” I warned them. “I actually think I’m going to lose.”
“C’mon, you’re way ahead. We’re going to call it for you.”
“Well, I think that would be a mistake, but you write what you write, I guess.” They went ahead and put the wrong report out in the morning paper. I said something like, “Win or lose I’m glad to have served this district.”
I knew I had lost by the time I went to bed.
In the morning I called and left a message on my opponents answering machine, congratulating him and went for a dog walk. A neighbor I passed (who didn’t vote for me) congratulated me on winning. I had to correct her. Her guy won.
Maybe I should have called the county clerk. Maybe she had a bin of votes under a table somewhere. Was I just a wimpy loser Idaho Democrat? Maybe real winners know how to “find votes” even after they are tallied.
Instead of looking over the fall fields and calling the dog back, maybe I should have made that call. I knew the county clerk pretty well. But I didn’t. I trusted that the voters had spoken. And asking someone to cheat is worse than cheating yourself. The thought, honestly, never occurred to me then.
The three times before when I had prevailed, I had never won by much. It was always about 1-2% difference between me and the other guy. But I always thought my job, when elected was to serve and represent all the folks in my district, not just the ones who voted for me. Maybe that’s stupid. After all: “Elections have consequences”.
Nowadays, elections for our representative government are treated more like a team sports event; we just want “our side” to win. It’s less about what the candidate actually stands for, their integrity, or character than what color jersey they have on. And the color of the jersey determines what you think of their character.
I thought local elections would be more about the individual, but I learned quickly otherwise. The color of your jersey really matters.
The Republican loyalty for our President is strong. It’s like he can do no wrong. If he makes a phone call to a foreign leader trying to get dirt on a political opponent, or tries to “find votes” in an election he lost, justification will be found. This jersey loyalty, whether a red one or a blue one, is not healthy.
Four years ago, after losing, I could not have imagined making such a call. I guess I can now. I can imagine it. But I can’t imagine actually doing it. It’s just not the right thing to do.
We have such a poisoned attitude about the public servants we elect, no wonder we distrust them. We should be electing people we respect, not granting loyalty to their jersey color. When we elect a representative, we are saying something about ourselves.
Serving in the Idaho Statehouse for six years I came to know some very honorable, even noble people. I was inspired by their work, their character. I tried to learn from them and let them know when I found them inspirational.
Winning an election doesn’t change your character. Losing one doesn’t really either. The people we elect are probably just a reflection of the character of us, the people they represent. It can be a painful mirror to look in.
Dan Schmidt is a family physician who lives in Moscow. Dr. Schmidt, a Democrat, served in the Idaho state senate from 2010 to 2016.