At Large: Elections – just plain fun

I’ve told you before in this space that, for me, there is flinching involved on Election Day. It doesn’t matter if the contests are strictly local or, as was the case Tuesday, regional, statewide, and national also. I’m developing a smoldering passion for absentee voting.

Once, when I lived in Chilmark, the guy standing next to me in the voting stalls, his mitts wrapped around the 3-inch, yellow pencils they spring for in that frugal village, nudged me with his elbow. (Very inappropriate, of course.) He muttered, loudly enough for me to hear, but no one else, “I want you to know that my votes are cancelling yours out.” I was younger then and, I suppose, intemperate. I muttered back, “Same to you and many more.”

Don’t get me wrong, despite the street fights that are national elections, to which the Democrats bring switch blades, the Republicans assault rifles, in elections here, perhaps because one must live, work, and get along with one’s small host of neighbors after the voting is done, good humored, unarmed contention prevails. One is neither surprised nor daunted by the chivvying — trash talking is the modern equivalent — that goes on during pre-voting electioneering.

For me, this neighborly shredding continues into the polling place. And, because I’ve learned my part over the years, I’m pleased to dance the dance. Tuesday, the lovely, jolly crew checking voters out of the American Legion polling place wanted to know, “What words of wisdom will you have for us Thursday?”

I didn’t have any, and it was obvious. There were smiles and chuckles all around in the close company of that teeming voting place.

Now, I’ve thought about it. So here goes.

I like the whole voting thing, and I like that you make up your mind and tell your friends what you think, and I make up my mind and tell you all. One of the dimmer commenters on mvtimes.com this week seemed to think that our recommendations and endorsements were commands. Of course, they aren’t, but when he thought it through, he found he was offended to read that “tripe” — not his word, but one he would have chosen if he’d thought of it — and to which he was strenuously unwilling to genuflect. Secretly, I dream that if only there were more devoted followership than there appears to be, it would be the merriest time of all the glad New Year — for editors, that is.

But there was a question embedded in our commenter’s witless fury, namely, why do newspapers behave this way? Why, he wanted to know, do they pick sides and tell me about it? The answer is that some don’t, but most do. The notion favored by those that do is that newspapers have a responsibility, in editorial columns, to let readers know what they think and a companion responsibility to attempt to influence the opinions of readers toward constructive decisions on all sorts of public questions. Lastly, it is possible that the newspaper will suggest something to a voter that the voter hadn’t thought of and, doing so, help him or her to a decision.

Now, the other afterthought has to do with complaints that the editorial recommendations last week were unsigned. I had a delightful exchange with someone wondering why. I had some not so delightful exchanges with others who had apparently overlooked the fact that editorials and editorial endorsements commonly appear in unsigned columns, in newspapers all over the world.

So, here goes. Peter and Barbara Oberfest and my wife, Molly, and me are equal partners in the ownership of The Times. Peter and Barb serve as co-publishers. I serve as editor. Moll is not to blame for any of this. Leave her out of it. You might say she’s a silent partner, though she is hardly silent in the absolute sense of that word, if you know what I mean.

I’ve been writing weekly editorials for the paper for about 20 years. They are not signed because, unlike what I write in this space, which is just me, editorials arise from the reporting work that The Times staff does. What they research, investigate, and report leads to the views synthesized in the editorial column each week.

Peter and Barb and I see eye to eye on a great deal. We don’t see eye to eye on some things political. Hence the Publishers’ Endorsements that appeared in what is normally the editorial space and the editorial endorsements that appeared in the collection of election related information we published November 1. We’ve made the same arrangement before, in advance of an earlier national election. I think it’s a swell way for partners to accommodate one another and let the newspaper’s constituents know who we are and what we think.