How campaigns play out will say a lot about us

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 29, 2004

Commentary by Bill Brown

I sat on the screened porch one morning recently having a difficult time convincing myself that it truly is autumn.

Some of the trees just beyond the porch still wore green leaves, and my shorts and tee shirt argued against the notion.

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But it is not only autumn; it is almost the end of the election season. Walk to the end of the driveway to fetch the morning paper from the tube there and the headlines trumpet the latest poll. Flip on the television set, and on countless channels sound bites of the candidates’ themes du jour are repeated and repeated.

We in Alabama have been spared the onslaught of commercials and advertisements that inundate citizens in the so-called swing states, which may be some sort of blessing. I do wish, though, that the candidates had to pay a little more attention to us.

I am not proposing to debate the pros and cons of eliminating the Electoral College. Doing away with it certainly would make every voter important, no matter where he or she lived.

I don’t think I have ever missed voting in an election in which I’ve been eligible to do so, and I won’t sit this one out. Perhaps I am just jaded, but neither presidential candidate has stirred my idealism or even my enthusiasm. I’ve found others who have the same feeling.

No matter what the degree of enthusiasm, though, there seems to be an almost universal feeling that this election is one of the most important we will ever vote in.

A nationwide surge in voter registration appears to validate that feeling. The growth in registration has even been seen in Alabama, which everyone assumes will be in the Bush column. I doubt that it is local races or constitutional amendments that are responsible for those registrations.

In a campaign that has been sliced and diced and analyzed in every way imaginable, though, no one seems to really know whether those new voters will show up at the polls or how they will cast their ballots.

It’s sort of comforting that the experts don’t know everything.

Our free elections are something that we are justifiably proud of.

In school, we heard over and over in civics and history classes about the wonders of the electoral process. If an incumbent lost an election, even if he were the president of the United States, he moved out and then winner moved in. No tanks in the street, no threats of revolution as has occurred in so many other countries.

Our election process was tested four years ago. Feelings ran high – the scars remain for some – but after the Supreme Court ruled, power was transferred peacefully.

Four years ago, it took time to determine who would be president. Some of the seers are saying that this year could be a repeat.

Personally, I hope that it will be over on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, even if the candidate I vote for doesn’t win. I hope that the person who is named winner is clearly the winner.

Our peaceful, free elections say a lot about this country.

How this election plays out, and its aftermath, will say even more.

Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at