Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Crucible ... .

The day has come to deliver to David my "talking window" ballot for Tuesday's Primary election. For years I've carefully studied the candidates and initiatives and -- as if I had the power to persuade -- would get out my roll of newsprint and marking pen, and prepare my ballot for the front window of our store. I've always done that with a sense of pride and a heady feeling of personal independence. No commercially designed mass produced signs for us. It was always a laboriously handprinted display with our signatures (David's and mine) at the end of our slate.

I've been trying to get to that project for weeks, realizing that I needed to do that early since many folks in South Berkeley would have voted absentee weeks ago. Couldn't face it this year. Have been plagued by indecision because of my deep concern about the issue of a moratorium on the death penalty and of the three vying for the governor's post refusing to support it.

I've planned all along to vote for Barbara Becnel as a protest, at least in the Primary. I volunteered months ago to work on her campaign. We met together to chat about just what role I might play, but due to her impossible schedule and (surely) lack of experience in the political process -- getting media attention and public support -- her workers simply didn't get around to organizing that and time slipped by without our ever coming together again.

The last thing I heard before turning off my bedside radio last night was the fact that Democratic candidates Steve Westley and Phil Angelides were in a deadlock for the nomination to face Arnold Schwarzenegger in November. And -- there are more undecided voters than ever before; believed to be a huge factor is the negative campaigning both engaged in over the past few weeks.

Looking at the campaign from the inside out -- from years of working for candidates for whom I was actually employed on an everyday basis -- I knew that this is not the work of the candidates, themselves, but are the words of their highly-paid campaign strategists who create the hit pieces, fund, and then spread them throughout the media. It's an ugly business that has served to discourage voters from participating in the process at all in many cases. This year it is more pronounced than ever, and I suspect that both candidates are embarrassed by this outcome.

This morning I must prepare my window ballot. Because this vote is so terribly important -- at a national level -- (again) -- I'm going to be forced to scrap my principles and vote for the candidate I've intended to support all along in the General Election in the fall; Phil Angelides. How I would have wished it were otherwise, but in an election this close, to vote for Barbara may risk the greater prize -- strengthening the Democratic power in this state to overcome possible losses elsewhere in the nation.

Do I believe that a single vote is that important? I do. One day after his election, I will make the trip to Sacramento with other advocates and make my case on the death penalty to Governor Angelides, personally. Once the pressures of the campaign are over, I cannot believe that this man of conscience (with a wife and daughters against the death penalty) won't provide the leadership necessary to creating a moratorium. With a California electorate that polls 70% in support of the death penalty, no candidate can afford to be in opposition. I'm far too practical to expect it to be otherwise, unfortunately.

And -- I'll vote out of hope and solidarity for the common good -- and with no cynicism. Ultimately, voting is a matter of great privilege and a ritual that I find both exciting and meaningful. But I do so with deep regret and a sincere apology to the memory of Stanley Tookie Williams. I'm fairly certain that Angela Davis would never make this compromise with principle; not on your life. That knowledge does little for my comfort level. Yet, I can't imagine that she doesn't act strategically when necessary. Is this what I'm doing now, or, by using that word am I asking to be qualified for forgiveness at least in my own eyes?

Are we again in that place in history that urgently demands an uncomplicated "black or white" response? Instead, do we find ourselves paralyzed by having to deal once again with one of the countless shades of grey? Does this account for such a wide margin of Liberal/Progressives not yet declared -- undecided on the eve of the Primary? Is this, too, another of the hidden disadvantages of aging; a time of life when experience has so broadened our breadth of understanding that there are few simple answers left?

This is only the most recent skirmish in the struggle to end capital punishment in my state and the nation. The work will continue as before.


1 comment:

Miss Carnivorous said...

Leftists are always happy when they pass a vote for something they are in favor of, such as making marijuana available for people in chronic pain or for the terminally ill. However, when the majority of voters agree that they are for something the left disagrees with, the left seems to think it should be able to override democracy and the popular vote. Tookie Williams was in favor of the death penalty, for his victims and for his enemies in other gangs. The horror and destruction he wreaked on inner city communities all over the US is still being felt. I am at a loss as to how anyone could think that he did not deserve a bit of his own justice. There is no shame in being executed and going to your death with honor and dignity and accepting your punishment like a man.