At the last meeting of Lincoln County Republicans, I had stepped outside with another member of the committee (Joe) to have a private word. As we were finishing our conversation, a woman I was sure I knew walked past us to the entrance. She paused, looking through the window for a few seconds, and turned back toward us. Our eyes met, and I recognized her as she asked us if this was the Democrat Committee meeting, adding that she thought she must be at the wrong place because she didn’t recognize any of the people inside.

We told her that indeed she was at the wrong meeting. We also answered that we did not know where the Democrat Committee was meeting. The woman introduced herself as Natasha Irving and we shook her hand and introduced ourselves. She thanked us for our help and assured us that she would resolve her problem with a simple phone call.

The point of telling the story is that Joe and I both recognized Natasha and while she didn’t know us, she knew for certain we were not Democrats. Despite that, we managed to have a civil conversation and tried to solve a problem. I was genuinely disappointed that I did not have the information she needed. The fact is, I “like” her and will bristle if I heard her personally attacked.

Since that meeting, I’ve been to Augusta twice to help with the recount of Golden/Poliquin ballots. That has put me beside several Democrats at least 40 years younger than I am, including the Democrat lawyers. The story above was repeated over and over. During one break our conversation (which is not to be political) turned to distress over the divisions and nastiness of the campaigns. At one point I offered my view that the divisions were amplified in the media to increase ratings or revenue and among people, face-to-face, there was far less nastiness. I can’t say there was agreement, but there was at least acknowledgment and conversation turned to careers, hometowns, and places we’d been or like to go.

There are occasionally ballots so badly messed up that a decision is needed. Lawyers from both sides and the candidates’ representatives converge and decide whether it is a Golden vote, a Poliquin vote, a disputed ballot, or an “exhausted” ballot.

In my two days I saw four or five instances. There was no contention and in one of those cases the group agreed that they could not agree and took the ballot to the secretary of state’s desk as a disputed ballot. In no case did I observe anything other than an honest attempt to assess what the voter intended.


If only we could find ways to have more person-to-person interaction to work for common goals with the “other side” and get past the walls that have been erected, in my view, very much to discourage such interaction.

Surely, politicians do have a motive to keep their supporters “on their plantation,” isolated from rational and positive examination of opposing ideas and different priorities. Because we eagerly and selectively consume the bombastic headlines, Tweets, and Facebook posts while not demanding and reading the “proof” and facts, if there are any, underlying the headline, what we get is anything but useful information. Instead, we increasingly come to believe the “other” side are just the worst people ever to exist.

If only we could make the time to get away from the devices and get our information directly from the candidates, perhaps we’d get to know them and be less inclined to tolerate unsubstantiated attacks on their character. If only we made the time to create opportunities to have conversations with others who have different priorities and beliefs, perhaps we’d find that some of what we say threatens them in ways we don’t intend every bit as much as what they say threatens us.

Perhaps all this is nostalgic fantasy from watching too many Hallmark movies this season. But I enjoy Hallmark movies and feel good about myself and toward others after seeing one.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous, and civil new year.

Another View is a weekly column written collaboratively by Dale Landrith of Camden, Ken Frederic of Bristol, Paul Ackerman of Martinsville, Jan Dolcater of Rockport and Ralph “Doc” Wallace of Rockport.

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