Don’t Give Up the Fight
You Can Never Tell Who Might Join In
By Steve Carr
The recent municipal elections were once again a revelation to me of just how much intestinal fortitude one must have to run for office.
In Idaho Falls, we added an extra battle to the campaign this year with a runoff in December after no candidate secured fifty percent of the November vote. The two left standing were shoved back into the arena. The petty and not so petty mudslinging, the guilt-by-association accusations must be difficult for candidates to stomach (not to mention voters), but surely that pales compared to the fist-in-the-gut feeling one must experience when the electorate selects the other person. I wouldn’t know for sure, having never summoned the guts to enter a race.
It isn’t easy to charge into the fray—any fray. For example, just last week I paced about the office wondering aloud how I might best encourage another busy acquaintance to join a local non-profit board.
“Ask her,” said my beleaguered colleague.
“What if she says no?”
I didn’t want to put her in a spot. More important, I wasn’t willing to feel the sting of rejection. So, I simply let it go.
A lifetime ago, my entire high school class knew I was considering asking our prettiest classmate to the freshman prom. Although my reconnaissance was solid, I couldn’t execute. My fingers slipped a half-dozen times from the phone dial—and then I got through, and heard a lilting, “Hello, is someone there?”
I managed to ask if she’d consider joining me—and a few others—for a ride in my mother’s station wagon to the prom. In my flustered state, I failed to tell her who I was—but she knew. I know (and knew then) that the advance team I’d sent on reconnaissance wasn’t the most discreet.
At the dance, I was painfully awkward, uttering fewer than a dozen words all night and barely managing a slight bow of goodbye at her door. I suspect my date wouldn’t rate our evening as one of her most memorable, if she remembered it at all. For me, it meant at least I could rightfully tell myself I was the prom queen’s date that night (even though we didn’t speak again for two years).
In college, I watched for weeks the comings and goings of the most delightful girl at the university. She lived across the street and high above the kitchen window where I ate my ten-for-a-buck ramen noodles. She was vivacious and kind to the numerous suitors who scaled the flight of stairs to her door. Her laugh echoed across the campus quad.
I pined for a spot in that rotation of clambering suitors. I pictured myself, saber in hand, fighting my way through the horde. In the end, my sally took the form of a fretful yet well-rehearsed phone call.
“Hello. A bunch of us are planning a picnic. WE’D like to know if you’d join US?”
If she wasn’t interested, it wouldn’t be me she was rejecting. If she said yes, the “yes” would be all mine.
“Yes,” it was.
Throughout the following year and beyond, I danced around any question that carried the possibility of anything less than an enthusiastic affirmation from her, let alone a rejection. Only after I had gathered enough intelligence to know that she’d say “yes” to the ring was a modest proposal made. More than thirty years later, I sometimes try to tell myself that I fearlessly vanquished all adversaries. Of course I know better. I didn’t exactly charge into battle. But I didn’t desert the field, either.
All of which is to say it takes guts to enter a political race. You who do it are heroes. Don’t go away, keep up the fight. To me, the message you send is, “A bunch of us are planning a bright future. WE’D like to know if you’d join US.”