Tuesday was election day. Our local ballot featured an array of races and questions for consideration, including a school funding referendum, judge and school board races, and even a state constitutional amendment. But Zach, age 9, was focused on the Mayoral election.
Practically first thing in the morning he asked who we were voting for. I could NOT figure out why he wanted so desperately for Mayor Paul Soglin to beat challenger Scott Resnick. Turns out he was confused, and under the belief that the challenger he knew only as, “Scott” was “Scott Walker.” Even upon clarification, and armed with the new understanding there was no conceivable way to vote against Governor Walker in this election, his interest was still high.
He asked me to tell him about being mayor.
(Sorry, but I can’t take another round of phone calls and emails from Hoiberg and his people begging for him to appear in Many Pointed Things.)
ANYWAY…on the way to our polling place I explained what being a mayor is. I tried to balance the glamorous stuff like police, fire, garbage and streets with the mundane things he wouldn’t understand. Admittedly, I may have stepped on City Council toes–I’m not sure.
Zach asked how people decide who to vote for. I said candidates run because they have a strong belief in how things can run well. Sure, there were asterisks and ironic voices flying around like popcorn in my head, but I kept it clinical rather than cynical.
I then said that voters ask the candidates to share their beliefs and their priorities of things that they would like to improve. I added that there is always a choice to make as a voter; whether you want to vote for someone who would serve your own needs or the needs of more people than you, because they’re not always the same. I furtherexplainedthatcandidatesalsohavetodecidewhethertheyvaluethingsmostfortheirown needsorservingthebestforthegreatestnumber,or…
I was beginning to flirt with that alluring hottie that hangs out in the corner or my mind. The one I find so hard to resist. I have a name for him. I call him “Lecture.” It took all my strength to avoid his advances in this should-be-simple conversation with Zach. To avoid Lecture I quickly gave the floor to Zach by asking, “Does this make any sense?”
Zach announced right then and there, and with an official sounding tone, that he wanted to run for something like mayor. The “something like” became operative as he outlined his vision. He wanted his opponent to be none other than (older brother) Ryan. The responsibility of the position, he said, is to be the decision-maker at home when parents are gone. He justified the urgency of his candidacy by stating, “Sometimes we have problems.” He asked, “How would I get that job?”
He seemed earnest. He seemed eager. He was having an exceptionally good hair day.
I wondered if this could possibly stem from a degree of powerlessness he feels as the younger citizen in the two person society of our home when Brad and I are gone. Then I turned that thought away because it seemed unnecessarily melodramatic, and I’m not like that.
I considered instead whether he was really trying to serve the good of the order, or whether I was witnessing the origin of an unquenchable
Thankfully, Zach’s initials are ZT. Not a tremendous liability.
He had questions about how to get elected. I explained the process of a campaign. He ventured into a fantasy where he and Ryan would have an election to be identified as “in charge” when they are home and parents are gone. Offhandedly I wondered whether Animal Farm or Lord of the Flies was on the 3rd grade reading list. I asked, “Who are the voters in your election?” and was told, “Only you and dad can vote.”
I said if campaigning for the role of being in charge they would be asked to identify what they think is most important in our household when we’re gone. I suggested actual issues of promoting equity between them and keeping themselves/each other safe in our absence. I said that, for example, one of them might say they would replace all the smoke alarm batteries and make sure reasonably healthy foods were eaten. The other of them might never mention smoke detectors, but instead might outline a more detailed plan for how to avoid or solve conflicts between them, or how to determine screen time and sharing. I added that those are the things that candidates should be running for–not just so they could have the power to stay up late, dominate the XBOX, and have the last Klondike bar to himself. He laughed. He got it. (I was speaking to the wrong candidate.)
Slickly, he proclaimed that he likes fire safety and fairness/sharing between him and Ryan. (I guess I never knew Smokey the Bear and Eddie Haskell had mated and produced a baby.) I said that sounded a bit too good to be true, like maybe he was saying what he thought I wanted to hear a little bit. We talked about how it’s natural to crave the ability to just plain “be in charge.” Zach and Ry are pretty fantastic, but I have a hard time envisioning them slicing a Klondike bar in half for sharing in our absence.
This lent to the conversation about being careful about what he would tell us in order to get our votes, because if elected by his parents he would have to make good on the things he talks about as important. Otherwise…
Our discussion ended with our arrival at the polling place, which was perfect. I believe if it had kept going I would have somehow let my eye wander back to that aforementioned hottie (Lecture) that so often calls to me. It was best to have had just enough of the conversation to pique his interest in elections and voting and then let the volunteer pollsters give him a sticker.
I briefly wondered if he was actually thinking about ever running for office, and what it would be like to have your kid enter politics. No more than an hour later Zach saw a car with a bumper sticker which he read to me because he didn’t really get it, but was intrigued by it. It said, “Walker isn’t a Badger. He’s a weasel.”
I thought, “Alllllrighty then, Zach. Let’s scrap the idea of ever running for office and just focus on excellent citizenry.” But that’s not right. I mean, really, someone’s gotta run and someone’s gotta serve.
It dawned on me that Zach’s suck-up campaign platform about fire safety and sharing with his brother might actually be the stuff of which winning elections are made. I wondered, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?”