ELECTION WEEK ENCOUNTERS

 

On November 2, a man on a street corner tried to hand me a brochure. Assuming he was promoting Scientology or a Gentleman’s Club or something like that, I tried to ignore him. He wouldn’t allow it.

“Do you vote around here?”  I said no, but it didn’t slow him down. He launched into why I should vote for him for State Assemblyman instead of the incumbent.

The guy had the one thing necessary to win an election: he stayed on message. It was not an especially persuasive message, but he stayed with it. In the three or four minutes I was on his busy corner, he told everyone who came within earshot, “my opponent made $110,000 for the last three years.” It was a curious accusation; $110,000 is the official salary of a New York State Assemblyperson.

I took the guy’s card and read it when I got home. His positions were mainly “to propose to bring back jobs to the city” and “to work with tenants and landlords to increase rooftop access.” His qualifications were that he had grown up in New York City, a strength he stated twice, and that he was a blood donor.

In Central Park, I encountered two girls sitting on a bench eating lunch. One of them, said, “I like your mask,” which read “Joe 2020.”

“When will you be old enough to vote?”

She did a little mental arithmetic. “In six years.”

That would make 2028 the first time she’ll be able to cast her ballot in a Presidential election. There is a good possibility, I will be dead or almost by then. It’s reassuring to know that this child will be around then doing her part as a good citizen.

As I was leaving, she said, “keep up the good work,” pointing her index finger at me for emphasis.

About a week ago, I learned that Pat Bell was running for a position on the school board of Lumberton, Texas, population just under 12,000. Lumberton is in what Wikipedia calls the “Beaumont-Port Arthur Metropolitan Area.” I grew up down there; to call it a “metropolitan” area is a Trump-class exaggeration.

I’ve known Pat since he was born forty-nine years ago. I’ve had only intermittent contact with him through the years, but we have had a steady relationship despite that.

I sent him an email wishing him luck and told him I would vote for him even without knowing anything about his positions. He responded that he was a member (the only member, so far) of a party he had founded, the Reasonableness Party, and that such a person was sorely needed on the Lumberton school board. He thought it reasonable for at least one member to have training in finance, which he does, since the board had just approved a $68,000,000 bond issue. It was something my dear friend, Pat’s late father, John, would have said.

John and I were only a few years older than Pat, when John died. He left a hole in my life that I still have not filled. He supplied me with the reasonableness, practicality, and good judgment I was short of, and he accepted me as who I am without qualification. I don’t know why he would.

From the time we were boys until midlife, I was restless, liberal, and given to risk taking. John was fundamentally conservative. From an early age, he knew what he wanted and where he was going. He was as conventional as anyone could be

I suppose he voted Republican, but I don’t know. We never talked politics. It just didn’t come up. I do remember that he characterized Newt Gingrich’s “contract with America” as a “contract on America.” I’m sure John would be as dismayed about the state of the nation today as I am. I’m also sure he would never vote for Trump, and that the next time the Republicans have a reasonable candidate John would probably vote for him/her.

Of course I would support his son Pat’s candidacy without knowing anything about his positions. He comes from good stock. By the way, John served on the Beaumont School Board.

The guy who was running for State Assembly on the strength of his background as a blood donor got 3728 votes; his $110,000-a-year opponent, 31,932. Go figure.

Pat lost by 90 votes out of 8900. That’s pretty good for a Reasonable candidate. Hardin County, where Lumberton is located, voted 86.1% for Trump in 2016. As one would expect of a Reasonableness Party candidate, Pat has accepted the result without crying foul or filing a lawsuit.

Postscript. A couple hours ago, I was walking near Riverside Park, which was crowded with people enjoying a day of perfect weather. Suddenly screaming and whistle blowing came out of the park. A man walking toward me with three young children was clapping and shouting, “They’ve called Pennsylvania.” A moment later a boy about the same age as the girl in Central Park shouted to me, “Biden won. Biden won.” When I got to the apartment, a porter at the door was jubilant. Celebration ran up and down the block. My sense is that all this response was not so much gloating but an expression of relief. If nothing else – there will be much else, of course – now we’ll have a President with good manners. That is no small thing.