When voting, consider the person, not the party

Just before the starter leaves of my garden seeds rid themselves of their seedpod, they are in a prayerful position, leaf tops connected and leaf bottoms connected with an oval opening at the center. Imagine fingertips and heels of your hands together, loose, prayerful, supplicant.

The upcoming primaries must have the candidates in this same, prayerful repose: asking for victory, but only if it’s God’s will. Humbly pledging to be the best they can if elected, asking forgiveness for errors in office if they’re incumbents. Before ballots are cast in the May 3 primary, the campaign has mostly been executed, and some are hoping for a miracle.

When I taught first-graders in Sunday school, I asked them to close their eyes and imagine the bad thoughts as weeds and the good thoughts as flowers. Did they want weeds or flowers? I asked them to pluck the weeds right out of the imaginary garden of their mind.

Aren’t we doing the same thing on Election Day?

The candidates we perceive as weeds, we don’t vote for. Those with the promise of flowering receive our vote. Many of us won’t bother to learn if some are weeds or flowers but will trust the party leaders to choose for us through a selection process that resembles the Darwinian “survival of the fittest” model.

As a Republican candidate, if you pledge unfailing loyalty — voting always with the party, implementing party priorities — if you can survive this, then you will be rewarded with party money. You will find yourself on the ballot and most often in the elected office for which the party is counting on you. The Hancock County Democrat Party doesn’t fund its candidates, so they are not beholden to the party.

If you know anything about lawn care, you know that grooming your yard into submission is paramount if you’re going to get a sea of green.

This is what our current political landscape looks like in Hancock County. Our lawn is so uniform with party-loyal Republicans, hardly any light can reach the other candidates trying to grow, be they Democrat, Tea Party, Libertarian or Independent. As it turns out, having a nice lawn isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

If you compare America’s obsession with achieving lawn perfection to what our current political climate is producing, a pattern is clear: keeping “weeds” out is paramount for success. But success for whom?

The Republican Party certainly is a success story in this county. But ask yourself, voters, is having one party the most beneficial way to run a democracy?

Don’t discount other candidates as “weeds” because they aren’t in lockstep with Republican leadership.

Examine the issues, the candidates and the resumes with an eye toward getting the best candidate who will represent you.

That is not necessarily the Republican Party candidate, although it may be. Local Republican leadership has its fair share of flowers.

The point is find out. Do your homework. Keep an open mind.

Dandelions, that most pernicious of weeds, are the hardest to get rid of. Some incumbents are so dug in, they resemble the tenacity of these weeds. Maybe it’s time to pull them up by the roots, or maybe not. It’s up to you, the voter, to decide.

But make an informed decision, just like you read the back of your seed packets before planting.

Donna Steele of Greenfield is a member of a variety of community organizations aimed at bettering the city, including Greenfield Main Street and the Greenfield Coalition.