Today, I had the honor of representing the Democratic Party at Foresthill High School as part of the Placer County Elections Office’s High School Outreach program. I and a Republican speaker presented our party’s platforms and positions to two classes, about 35 kids in total. It was a pleasant day in a part of the world that can truly be described as “God’s country.”
In an effort to increase political participation by young voters, the Placer County Office of Elections hosts a travelling show of speakers who present their party’s platforms and answer students’ questions about the platforms. Sometimes, we have some pretty good debates about the merits of our platforms and sometimes, the presentations seem a bit boring. The difference is usually a result of how interested the kids are in politics, how well they pay attention to the news, and how well the speakers can make a personal connection with the students.
A few weeks ago, at Chana High School in Auburn, the students were clicking with my talking points such that, at one point in the Q/A section, one young lady pointed at me and said out loud “I like that guy, right there.”
That felt pretty good.
This evening, while my lovely wife and I were shopping at Raley’s (the one near the Foresthill road in Auburn) a young man waved at me across the store. He wasn’t someone I recognized, and I was puzzled by this young man’s wave but figured he had me confused with someone else. I had had a “don’t I know you from somewhere” conversation with a cashier earlier in the day, so I don’t find it that uncommon. I have a common face, it seems. I assume that Brad Pitt, too, has a common face.
Anyway, my wife and I got up to the checkout at the grocery store and that same young man was ahead of us at one of those self-checkout stations. He was fumbling a bit but managed, eventually, to finish his transaction, collect his change and move on.
As he was waiting for his friends to finish at the other self-checkout kiosk, he turned to me and said, “I saw you at Foresthill today. I was one of the students. I asked a question.” Immediately, I flashed back to the second of the two classes and the young man in the Doors t-shirt sitting on the ground in front of the teacher’s desk.
“I registered Republican because my parents are Republican” he said. I thanked him for registering and asked if he had found the presentations worthwhile. He said he did.
As I thought about that last conversation on the way out the parking lot, I realized that he may have registered Republican today, but that he could (would?) change his mind in the future. Had he totally disagreed with my presentation and the Democratic platform, he would not have taken the time to wave at me, let alone take the time to strike up a conversation at the check-out line. I realized that he found something in my presentation about our party positions that he found intriguing enough that we was not ready to shut his mind to it.
I may not have gotten him to register as a Democrat today, but I’m happy that at least we have a voter who will think about who or what he supports and why he supports them. Not just a straight “D” or “R” voter.
In this day of ultra-polarized politics, we should all be mindful of this and do likewise.