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Information voters need to know

By Staff | Dec 19, 2007

It’s not only the sleigh bell ring filling the Christmas air in Iowa this holiday season.

It is the incessant telephone jingle-jangling as politicos make merry chitchat with Hawkeye voters. At times the disruptive din is disturbing, annoying and overwhelming. In one evening, seven calls were placed to the house.

You gotta love modern technology. A shake of my head is the only appropriate non-verbal communication option as I hang up on a recording of political-payrolled person yammering about Hillary, Barack, John, Rudy, Mitt, or one of the many others seeking the Oval Office.

You see, our house is what’s described as all-American and non-partisan as it supports two Democrats, one Republican and one Independent. We get more than our fair share of these unwanted interruptions.

It is equally annoying when a rare but real-live caller’s boisterous greeting notes a survey is being conducted and questions will be asked on certain issues.

My response, “I don’t do surveys.” (Gentle click.)

The way it works in my mind is this; when I go to the polling place no one actually sees me darkening ovals; hence it is nobody’s business how I vote. Therefore I do not have to share my likes or dislikes with some stranger on the phone. Besides, there is no possible way to know whether the person is legitimate.

The “first in the nation label” is great for Iowa on the national stage, but it most certainly has its drawbacks. Not only do Iowans get phone calls, they get the tree-wasting tons of mailed cards, letters, brochures which proclaim the candidates’ attributes fill mailboxes and end up on kitchen counters. This one-way, flashy and mostly unwanted correspondence costs the voter money because all of this paper ends up in the trash which needs to be placed in garbage bags at some point. Depending on whether the voter lives in the town or country, there is a garbage fee or trip to the landfill to get rid of the waste. The conclusion here is we need to get a message to candidates –Hello! Our landfills runneth over and do not need the added waste you produce with your voter enticement.

Some folks burn trash, so it can be said politicians add to air pollution too.

There are times I get involved in the political process as a private citizen are when I go to the polling place and perform the greatest right and privilege bestowed on all Americans of legal age. I have watched Iowa legislators in action when visiting my son at the Iowa Capitol during his employ as a legislative page and clerk.

There’s only one other occasion I (reluctantly) get close to the grinding political machine–when I am assigned newspaper coverage. I enjoy this in the same way I would if encountering an enraged elephant, or disturbed donkey for that matter.

To be fair, the huge outpouring of Iowans attending these gatherings is impressive. Equally astounding is the age range. There are plenty of senior citizens but the younger set claims its spot.

As I observed Hillary Clinton and John Edwards when they wended their way to northwest Iowa, I remember back to a time prior to the 1976 election when a contingent from Mount Union College (Alliance, OH) stood in downtown Cleveland, awaiting Jimmy Carter.

It was a time to fear for my life as I was swept off my feet … literally!

We arrived early but the lunchtime crowds gushed forward, filling every nook and cranny in the downtown square. It wasn’t long the masses carried my group the length of two metropolitan street blocks.

My feet were off the ground. The feeling was indescribable panic then and still is today when I think of how we all just wanted to get a glimpse of someone “in the news” or “famous.”

Was it worth it?

Not on your life, or mine!

In all fairness, the folks assembled to hear Hillary in Emmetsburg and John at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville were respectful and reserved.

The only head-butting incident occurred when another news reporter tried to oust me from the press area at the back of the Iowa Lakes lecturing hall.

The exchange went something like this:

“This area is reserved for the press,” he said as I pulled up a chair.

“I know.” I had a legal pad and pen in my hand. (Editor Nathan Christophel was closer to the front with the camera.)

“Are you with the press?” he asked.

“Yes, I am with the local Estherville newspaper.”

“Oh, which one,” he queried.

“Which one? There’s only one in town.” (Pause as a I squinted at him) “And you are …?”

The gentleman from Denver’s Rocky Mountain Times was confused as he assumed Estherville Printing was the other newspaper outlet.

It is amazing now differently media are handled. Of course, the television cameras get prime spots down front for the best shots of the candidate while newspapers are shoved to the rear. (After 30 years in the business, I automatically position myself to the back of the room.)

Whatever. It’s not like I have to see the spotlighted soul to hear what is being said.

Actually, the hands I did shake were none other than former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack at Hillary’s coffee and that of Ben “Cooter” Jones at John Edwards' visit.

In chatting with the former star of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” it turns out he has visited Wheeling, WV, and knew some of the country music spots in the town where my newspaper career got its start.

After reading this, I hope to have met my goal of conveying to you that yes, I believe every American needs to know enough about what is going on to answer these questions:

1. Who are the candidates?

2. What are their positions on issues?

3. How do these positions affect your style of living?

Two suggestions are:

n Make a mental note of Jan. 3, 2008, in your mind and either attend the caucuses or at least be in the know and read all about it on Jan 4.

n Then when you get your new 2008 calendar, circle Nov. 4 and be sure to vote. Our future depends on all of our votes.