Some folks would never vote for me. I accepted this. A frequent comment I made: “I might get elected by 51% of the voters, but I represent 100% of the people in my district.” Thus it was hard for me to dismiss my opponents. I thought I should listen to them, even when it was hard; maybe especially then.
The limitations of time for door knocking and the numbers needed to contact imply one should aim for efficiency. If you find out right away a voter opposes you, thank them politely and go on. But the ongoing uncivil presidential race of 2016 was casting a dark shadow over my campaign. And I had listened to a US Senator from our state dismiss the possibility of civil discourse around contentious issues. I thought his stance demeaning of the role we elected officials should serve, and cynical about the possibility of civil discourse in our society. So when I ran into this guy I did my best to listen. Now you get to hear him.
“Hi I’m Dan Schmidt your state senator and I’m out talking to voters about getting reelected.”
“Oh, hi Dan. No, I’ll never vote for you, you’re a Democrat.”
“So party affiliation is important to you?”
“Democrats support abortion. I can’t vote for anybody who thinks it’s ok to kill babies. 26 million babies have been killed by you guys. No, I’ll never vote for you. I saw you as a doctor and I liked you, but you’re a Democrat and you support killing babies.”
This was where I should have politely thanked him and moved on. But I thought he deserved some respect for his honesty.
“I get it that you feel pretty strong about abortion. Are you aware of any of the things I’ve done in the Idaho legislature?”
“No, I’m really not; I don’t pay much attention to the legislature. But you support abortion, you support killing babies, don’t you?”
“I support women having the right to control their own bodies, yes I do.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought: baby killer. No, I won’t be voting for you.”
“Do you know any women who have had abortions?”
“Yes I do. And I’ve told them they are evil and damned. They just do it for convenience that is all. They kill babies for their own convenience. They are going to hell. They know it too. No, this isn’t something that can be compromised.”
“Not all women make the choice for convenience.”
“Sure they do. I’ve talked with them. They have no consideration for the life they are taking.”
“So you know I am a doctor. I’ve had many conversations with women about this decision and convenience was not usually what we talked about. So I’m hearing you say the state should not allow a woman to control what happens with her body.”
“Of course not. The state should not allow murder. I know you’ll go off on capital punishment now, but these are innocent babies that are being killed.”
“Sometimes these are embryos or fetuses with anomalies that would not survive after birth. Is that murder too?”
“Of course it is. It’s just for their convenience.”
“So I’m hearing that you believe you think you know best what a woman should be doing with her body.”
“Well I know that abortion of any kind should not be legal.”
“So I guess we disagree. I thank you for spending the time you have with me.”
“Yeah, well, you were a good doctor, but I’ll never vote for a Democrat. You guys are baby killers.”
I did then excuse myself and walk away. But just as I believe a woman deserves the respect (right) of controlling her body, and the man at the door thought the unborn deserve the respect (right) of personhood, I believe civil discourse; honest, respectful conversations are the foundations for our communities, our nation. If we abandon discourse, we move on to violence, the ultimate in disrespect.
I am sure I did not persuade this man to vote for me. But getting votes should not be the ultimate goal of public service.
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