Of ham sandwiches, canes and voters

Oct. 05, 2013 @ 03:29 PM

As sure as Election Day comes around every fall, here’s my usual column reminding you why you should vote.

Don’t take it from me – the behavior of Congress this past week is reminder enough to vote, vote, vote.

I’m starting to think the most important quality in an elected official isn’t platform, or party or personality. I think it’s simply the ability to be reasonable. If you’re not reasonable, then you don’t belong in office. If you stomp your foot and act like a jerk, then you apologize and move on. You recognize that you’re being unreasonable, and you stop doing it.

Consider that at least one member of Congress, has, historically, whacked another with a cane. (Visit www.senate.gov/vtour/sumner.htm for details.) This was a time when the North and South were not, shall we say, friends. Resorting to violence didn’t work out so well for South Carolina. However, the Congressman from Massachusetts did insult the Congressman from South Carolina’s cousin.

Attacking a fellow politician with a cane isn’t done anymore, though occasionally they cuss each other out. So, that’s progress, I guess.

If you’ve never voted outside your party at any level of government, then maybe you need to think about reasonableness, too. Now, voters of both parties have probably considered, on occasion, that voting for a ham sandwich on their own party’s ticket is a better alternative to the other guy.

I’m eating a ham sandwich as I type this, and I can tell you that it is a do-nothing sandwich that doesn’t deserve a paycheck.

However, it is not making things worse.

If Congress was made entirely of ham sandwiches, there would not have been a federal government shutdown. I’m joking -- don’t email me your outrage about comparing Congress to sandwiches. Certainly, they’ve been called much worse.

I was in college during the federal shutdown in the 1990s, and being from Northern Virginia, many of my friends’ parents worked for the federal government. When there’s a shutdown, nobody comes out looking good except maybe federal workers.

The feds take a lot of flak year round, and shutdowns remind the rest of America that federal workers are everywhere and do a lot of work that needs to be done.

Congress, however, does not come out looking good after a shutdown, regardless of the party that started it. It’s a detriment to everybody, not to mention how we look as a nation to the rest of the world. Like a bunch of brats, really. Unreasonable.

So on Tuesday, when you go to vote, vote for a candidate that supports what you want their role in government to be, yes, but also vote for someone who is reasonable.

It’s important if the office is for a town, city, county, state or country.

Someone who, when faced with opposing views, works for collaboration rather than altercation.

And definitely don’t vote for someone who wields a cane as a weapon.

Remember also that politicians might make the big decisions of government, but it’s those 800,000 federal workers and millions more local workers that make this country work day to day.

We are the government, really, and going to vote makes sure of that.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.