In 2015’s "Of Goats & Governors" — a book furnished by a Wise Old Tree known to many Alabamians as Mr. Flowers — an oldfangled joke jumps right off the final page as fresh as a daisy:
Two voters met on the town square in a Western town and began discussing the coming election. Said one: “I don’t want to vote for any of the candidates. I don’t know any of them.” The second voter responded: “I don’t know what to do, either. You see, I know all of them.”
Looking at the 2022 Alabama US Senate race (which will be decided by the GOP primary), I can relate to both voters in that Western town square. Though, unlike those voters, I’m more prone to comically cussing than earnestly discussing this, or any other, coming election.
I have met all the candidates. Some I’ve already interviewed on the radio airwaves several times over. I have heard their backstories, humored their campaign talking points, and even engaged in some off-the-record chit-chat with them. Sometimes, they even answer my questions directly! And I must confess: I genuinely like them all, so far.
Aside from these candidates’ friends, family members, or hired guns, I bet I already know these people better than most voters in our dear state will ever have the opportunity to get to know them.
Yet, I don’t know them. Not really, with any speakable depth. Luckily, in-depth knowledge is not required for voters or talk radio hosts to do our respective jobs and do them well. We’ll be fine. It’s not like we have to marry these candidates or even hire them to watch over our kids. We merely have to entrust one of them with political power over our lives, liberty, and honor.
At best, we voters can gain an informed sense of the candidates. We can paint a general impression of their character and wit as well as their favored ideals and policies. We can even sketch out the web of their financial backers and political patrons. Then we can consult, speculate, and argue with our fellow voters all the way until Election Day. That will all come in the weeks and months ahead as more Alabamians take time out of their busy lives to pay attention to the players on the field.
But, will we ever truly know Mo, Katie, or Mike? No, but again, this is not necessary. In-depth knowledge is not needed when it comes to voting.
In fact, it is best to remember that under our democratic process there is no single standard by which to judge these candidates. Whatever yardstick the people of Alabama decide to use will be the standard. If by some strange alignment of the planets, a majority of Alabamians wanted their next US Senate seat decided by a coin flip or some silly dice game or even a tic-tac-toe tournament, such would be their right. Vox Populi, Vox Dei — The voice of the people is the voice of God — even if that voice was to sound like “Yahtzee!”
Accordingly, the Senate candidate who wins will be the Senate candidate who persuades enough Alabamians to use their preferred yardstick. Such standards can be crafted along several binaries —positive or negative, personal or general, rational or emotional, principled or pecuniary, lucid or drunk, etc, — with the combinations being potentially endless, especially when matched with the given tastes of individual voters.
Remember, each voter may vote as they please for any reason: for health, for safety, for religion, for Trump, for happiness, for spite, for efficiency, for Trump, for who you know, for who they know, for liberty, for equality, for jobs, for war, for peace, for Trump, for a candidate's speaking style, for a candidate’s hometown roots, for a candidate’s attractiveness, for a candidate’s charm, for a candidate’s gender, age, or love for Trump.
Take your pick.
No matter the reason, no matter how informed or ignorant, no matter how studied or flippant, each vote counts just the same.
But, what yardsticks will prove to measure the most in this particular election?
Well, there’s Trump’s endorsement. This is Mo Brooks’ most obvious measure. Then there’s ALFA as well as the alphabet soup of Alabama’s incumbent associations and their endorsements. That’s Katie Britt’s most obvious metric. Also, there’s an incredible story of survival in the midst of military service for this country. That’s Mike Durant’s ticket.
That said, none of these candidates can be boiled down to a few obvious metrics, though that won’t stop people from trying, especially the campaigns themselves. I tend to believe the most important factor in any election is putting in the hard work of meeting the voters face-to-face and making a basic human connection. That, or money, is the most important factor. Probably money. Or Trump’s endorsement. Or stylish yard signs.
Either way, how campaigns so often necessarily reduce candidates to a bumper sticker or billboard only to be bubbled-in on the ballot is such a wretched part of our current democratic process and why getting to know the candidates is one of the worst parts of my job.
Don’t get me wrong, getting to know them is usually a pleasure, but after getting to know them, all but one of them will eventually end up as losers — and well, I hate watching people I know (and like!) lose. I hate it almost as much as watching someone I don’t truly know win. As that democratic socialist with big feet, George Orwell, once quipped, “The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them.”
At this point, I don’t want to vote for any of the candidates. I know them all without knowing them at all. If I have hope for one thing, it’s to be entertained. There’s nothing quite like the absurd twists of a competitive Alabama state-wide popularity contest. The good news is that what once looked like a runaway snooze fest is shaping up to be a real knock-down, drag-out slobberknocker.
Let the measuring contest begin!
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL, M-F, 9 am-12 noon. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback please email [email protected] . The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].