As is tradition on Election Day, I always stop at a local eatery for a bite before heading to the lively election office at the government center in Ventura. While sitting at the bar watching CNN and following the election coverage, a man walked in, soundly expressing his support for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. As he talked about how bad President Barack Obama had been for the last four years, the question came up: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The man replied fervently, “Heck yes! I am making twice as much now as I was then.”
Completely bewildered and befuddled by the man’s contradictory statements, I headed off to the government center. From the vivid memories of the 2008 presidential election, I was preparing for a robust atmosphere of new and old faces of local politics. I was in for a surprise. It was around 7:30 p.m. and the parking lot had only about a dozen cars. There was no lively atmosphere in the main lobby. There was no one coming in and out the elevators. In the election office, County Recorder Mark Lunn was making small talk with staff. A few voters had made it just in time to cast their ballots. And that was it.
I walked away disappointed. Have we become so apathetic about voting and politics that such traditions as coming together at the election office, awaiting the votes to be tallied, have been all but forgotten? It does appear that way.
Locally, the political fever is not as hot as it was in 2008. Voter turnout for 2008 was 77.6 percent; this presidential election, 60.2 percent, according to the Secretary of State. Though that doesn’t account for the 5 percent increase in newly registered voters in Ventura County, it reveals somewhat the apathy in our region. This election season was brutal — political foes rearing their worst sides; lies, accusations, disappointment, fear mongering; the onslaught of political ads, boisterous pundits and vocal citizens. This formula would seem to have set the stage for a record voter turnout. Not so much, apparently, at least not in Ventura County.
When recalling the man at the restaurant, declaring his disdain for the president and his approval for Romney, I wonder about the future of politics. Will it continue to be shouting matches, red against blue? Will politicians continue to vote in lockstep with their parties regardless of the consequences for our society, for our communities? Will leaders ever come together and compromise instead of shove each other aside and stop progress? Time will tell. Thankfully, this nasty election season is over and there is hope that the newly elected officials will stop with the rhetoric of their parties, that Democrat and Republican citizens will put down their ideologies and focus on a promising future, rather than continuing the vitriol of aggressive disapproval and forceful disagreement.
Now that the storm has passed, it is a time of reflection and calm. We need to refocus on how to move forward rather than clamor about all things bad. In the words of our newly re-elected president, “The best is yet to come.”
“Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.
It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.
Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.” — President Barack Obama, 11/7/12