Let’s Simplify to Clarify Politics

At election time, I am finding the harder I try to be thoughtful and educated in my choices, the harder it is to vote.

As you read this (but not as I write it), Maryland’s primary elections are over. Perhaps there will be a brief respite from finding the out-sized campaign postcards loaded into my family’s mailbox for two months.

What a waste of resources — usually there is nothing on them that tells me about the essence of the candidate or anything specific about voting records. I don’t care what your spouse looks like. I want to read something substantive.

More annoying is the fact that the same pieces are sent several times.

At first, I was saving the mailings so I could go through them prior to Election Day, but when I started having to look for new storage solutions for the cards, I rethought my options. My house needs some decorating, and I realized I could wallpaper my bathroom with one candidate and a sitting room with another.

This brings me to dirty politics. Very muddy this go-round was the State Senate District 39 race in which Democratic challenger and one-term House of Delegates member Saquib Ali ran against incumbent Senator Nancy King.

If Senator King mailed me one picture of Saquib Ali napping on his office couch, supposedly during a key vote, she sent me 15. What I was able to gather from the information with the picture was not substantive. I get that he took a nap, maybe more than one, but they all looked like the same nap to me.

I then learned that Senator King also mass-mailed a photo of Ali, who is of South-Asian heritage, in which his skin was darkened. She does not know how it happened.

It reminds me of the year I noticed that, in the local high school’s winter sports program brochure, the faces of dark-skinned basketball players in the team photo were featureless black blobs. I complained but chalked it up to poor production quality, bad lighting and inexperience.

When it happens in expensive, four-color campaign literature, I call it something else.

Let’s lighten up. For fun, I challenge you to find a street map of your state legislative district online on a site “courtesy of the Maryland State Archives and the Maryland General Assembly” (http://mdelect.net/electedofficials/).

It’s easy to find what district you are in and the location of your polling place, but the map is useless to me. What if you want to talk to your friend about the district senate race? Chat him up at the gym next week? Because the map is hard to read, if you don’t know your friend Joe’s precise address, you can’t find out if he also lives in your district.

I have been feeling for years that there has been a steep decline in political discussion among normal friends and acquaintances. Not good. If you can’t figure out if your friend is in your district — if it’s not easy to bring the coming election up in chit-chat — that’s just one more conversation two voters will not be having.

Not good at all.

Grouchy me, I felt the first prickle of annoyance this primary election season when I encountered a large roadside campaign banner encouraging me to vote for Governor O’Malley and listing several other Democratic members of the Montgomery County delegation.

I am a Democrat; thanks for reminding me about coming elections. But are they implying that all these people agree on everything — that on specific issues they are part of a brain-meld, that if one votes “aye” on a particular thing — his fellow delegate will, too?

Would you mind putting on the sign some of the things they all agree on? I’d like something substantive to think about.

I want to know candidates as individuals. When candidates go beyond running in small tickets — like governor and lieutenant governor — and insist on running in clumps, it irks me.

How can we make informed decisions? I don’t want to vote for your club.

I am also tired of campaign ads of presenting a list of groups who have endorsed the candidate. Who are these people? Organizational acronyms mean nothing. An “apple” is nothing but a fruit to me.

Unless we as voters are able to closely monitor web elections, campaigns, candidate backgrounds, legislative calendars, voting records, endorsements and the membership and interests of the pacs and groups who make endorsements and campaign donations including the make-up of so-called “lump-sum” donations, how can we make an informed decision?

I want simple, meaningful, accurate information from candidates.

Our world is so complex. I fear if we do not simplify our governmental process at the roots so we can all participate in a meaningful way, it will become obsolete.

Local elections are grass-roots elections. The grass roots, at the bottom of the process, are also our democracy’s foundation and the place at which our system of government must be the strongest.

Let us see to it.