Citizenship: It’s a Grassroots Activity

It was late as we came from the temple and we had a forty-five minute drive ahead of us. A sweet, peaceful feeling lingered on, as it always does; in the spirit of love and friendship that existed among us, all topics of conversation were possible. This night it turned out to be politics. It began when the lady in the back seat reached up and, touching my shoulder, remarked, “My, I was glad to read in the paper that you are now a precinct committeeman. How we need more good Church members active in politics!”

Of course I agreed with her, but I expressed my concern over how terribly difficult it seemed to be to get anyone involved. “Even half the precinct committeemen are absent from most of the meetings,” I complained, “and hardly anyone else ever shows up.”

“I know,” she said. “My husband and I were active in local politics for many years and always it was the same story: a little handful of people making the decisions that really count, choosing the candidates, urging them to run, helping them to organize a campaign. At times it does become discouraging.”

“Robert was a very staunch Democrat to the day he died,” she continued, “and I have always been a very loyal Republican. Some people used to think that was kind of funny,” she chuckled.

“Seems to me that all you must have done was cancel out each other’s votes,” the driver commented. “Or did you both stay home on election day?” someone else asked.

“Neither of us ever missed either a primary or general election in our lives,” she said. “Not since we were twenty-one.” And then she added, “Yes, I’m sure we canceled out each other’s votes a good many times over the years; but in November, that’s not really so important. After the August primary there isn’t much choice left anyway.” And she chuckled softly. Apparently she viewed elections in a different way from most people.

Then my home teacher’s wife asked me who my opponent in the election for precinct committeeman had been. I had to admit I had been appointed by the county chairman, inasmuch as no one had filed for the position from my precinct. (Since then I have twice been elected to the position—both times unopposed.)

The sister in the back seat continued, “The most interesting year of all was the year Robert was county chairman for the Democrats and I was secretary of the county Republican committee. I tell you, we saw to it that the people of the county had a good slate of candidates to choose from on both sides of the ballot. Before the primary, we went out together, Robert and I, to campaign for the men we thought were best, and to urge everyone to come out and vote regardless of which party they voted for. On election day we kept track of who had voted and then about seven o’clock we got people with cars to drive around and help us bring in those who had yet to vote. There are always people who want to vote but for health reasons aren’t able to get out; with just a little effort, a lot of good can be done.”

We talked politics much of the way home that evening, and we talked about a number of other things. But the lesson of those two fine, dedicated people, one a Democrat, one a Republican, using their influence to try to ensure a choice in November between two good candidates in every contest—not one good and one weak—has stayed with me.

In our next primary election there were some very crucial contests on both tickets. Both parties had some very strong candidates as well as some whom I considered to be weak. Both of the winning candidates for one office seemed to be particularly unqualified. That happens sometimes in politics.

Just after the polls had closed on that election night, I overheard two ladies talking in a store.

“Did you vote today?” asked the one.

“Oh, dear,” said the other, “I forgot all about it.” She commented on whom she would have voted for; it was the man I thought was best, too. Then she added, “Oh, well, this is only the primary. I never forget the important election in November.” A few hours later I learned that her candidate had lost the election by a very narrow margin. I couldn’t help thinking of her and how, if only a few more people, one or two in every precinct in the state, had voted for the candidate she favored, we would have had a different choice in November.

Are there any of us who could not have done more in the last several elections to ensure choices on election day between truly honest candidates of high ideals to administer our government at all levels—from the precinct to the national? In the final analysis, don’t we pretty much get the kind of politicians in office we deserve?

Lorentz C. Pearson, a geneticist teaching biology at Ricks College, is teacher development instructor in the Rexburg Sixth Ward, Rexburg Idaho East Stake.