Primary Concerns

Just remember when you step into your voting booth
He’ll never lie, he’ll just ‘embellish the truth’

Steve Taylor, “Whatever Happened to Sin?” from I Want to Be a Clone (1982)

Dearest Rachel –

It’s that time again.

No, it’s time to spin the Wheel of Amorality, otherwise known as ‘our civic duty,’ or, more to the point, the exercise in futility that Election Day in Cook County tends to be. Granted, since this isn’t November, this isn’t the day that Chicago proper (and East St. Louis) decide the fate of the rest of the state, but it is basically little more than selecting a sacrificial lamb to go up against what has been known as ‘the machine’ for the better part of a century.

And just like this one, it sucks pretty hard.

So I’m afraid, honey, this letter is going to be one of those where I’m going to be spending a lot of time talking about politics, and certain views of mine… you know, the ones that left you literally referring to me as ‘the pessimist’ on one of your Christmas presents to me, and got me a good talking-to from my dad about what you meant by that when you were out of earshot. Of course, he tells me about cynical stuff I said back when I was in college (and he had to admit I was right to hold to my conclusions at the time, much to his chagrin), so he shouldn’t have been surprised that I hadn’t changed my attitude toward politics and politicians – especially since they haven’t changed much, apart from getting that much more so these days. It would all be cartoonish, if it wasn’t for the fact that the effects of their stupidity weren’t so serious.

Then again – and I’m sorry you had to miss them – the last week or so have included high court rulings so momentous that it might even warm my heart, if it weren’t for the fact that I know how seriously others take their caterwauling about said court being ‘illegitimate,’ and that they will, to the extent that they can, absolutely disregard the rulings being handed down. So while it seems that a difference is being made (thanks, by the way, to a non-politician having a stint in power, it needs to be pointed out), at least on paper, they’re probably not going to make any perceptible changes in our lives, save for having to deal with that much more hue and cry – or worse.

Anyway, today Daniel and I (and, it would seem, you as well, since they sent a voter card in your name yet again this year – I still don’t know how to cancel that, so I’m still concerned that you’ll have to be voting for Democrats again later this year) will cast our ballots for the slate of red team candidates who are to throw themselves on the pikes of the blue team come November. It’s weird to realize the whole red-blue dichotomy is only as old as the millennium – the combined coincidence of the networks independently choosing the same color scheme and the decision being dragged out due to punch card problems in Florida in 2000 ingrained it in our minds, but it certainly makes for a convenient identifier – it seems like it’s been this way forever. Still, I can remember back in 1984 (I know, I know, you’re not supposed to remember things from 1984, right, George?) when at least one network referred to Reagan’s ‘lake’ of states that had gone to him – I don’t think that would have been the term used if the network was using blood red to denote the states that had gone Republican, that year or any year.

I’m going to try to avoid naming names, if for no other reason than I’ll forget who most of these guys are once today is over, anyway. Most of them are already so obscure that I’m glad for a voter’s guide, with a list of particularly hot-button issues, and a number of candidates support for, or opposition to, them to give some idea which ones align with my own ideology. To be sure, it’s mostly a matter of party lines, but there are some exceptions – and it’s interesting to note how a good half of the candidates on either side seem to have ‘no comment,’ which, as far as I’m concerned, is grounds for disqualification.

Then again, who’s to say that the ones who’ve commented on their positions won’t flip-flop? There have been some notable cases even this year (albeit not so much from here in Illinois, since, again, it really doesn’t matter what one says or does, it’s which party you’re backed by that decides whether you win or lose, but we keep sending people to run their heads up against that wall, regardless. It’s got to give someday, right?), particularly a fellow from Texas(!) who, when running for President a couple years ago, insisted “Hell yes,” they can say that from the stump in Texas, “we’re gonna take your [guns],” to thunderous applause, only to discover that a line like that won’t work when you’re running for governor of that state – unless there’s a mass shooting, in which case, why not go all strident again?

Again, it would be funny, if it wasn’t so serious. Not that I really care about guns, myself – I was as shocked and appalled as you were to discover your dad had kept one stashed in a hollowed-out book all those years, like an old mystery cliché – but I can see where a person may feel the need to defend themselves against oppression from within their own nation. Just watching the Aussies rounding their Covid-positive (and Covid-adjacent!) up into detention camps is a pretty good demonstration as to why government shouldn’t necessarily have all the power. What if it turns out they’re in the wrong, after all? Why should they be allowed to carry out these draconian measures?

Of course, the primary isn’t where the truly momentous stuff happens. Even the governor’s race really won’t amount to much, as the incumbent has both scads of money and the state political party on his side. Granted, there’s a candidate on our side with money to burn as well, being backed by the richest man in the state, apparently, but he’s a recent convert to this side (although I understand that, after the past seventeen months, there’s been a lot of that going around), so whether his conversion is genuine is tricky to say. The next two likely candidates have their bona fides (indeed, we’ve gotten mailers about how each of them is ‘too conservative for Illinois,’ coming from the Democratic Party, no less!), but even their supporters that I’ve heard from can’t seem to distinguish what makes their man stand out from the other. It may be down to the fact that I got that call yesterday.

Or not. After all, it’s not like it’s likely to make a difference come November (and it’s certainly of no concern of yours on your side – although maybe, there will be fewer little ones being sent up to you going forward; who knows?).

Chinatown, Chicago… what’s the difference?

Still, keep an eye on us, honey, and wish us luck – and wisdom. We (and by ‘we,’ I mean the whole darn state today) are gonna need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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