The Fred Rogers Test

This past February and finally on March 1st, 2022, Texas, like many states across the nation, had its 2022 Primaries. Several key offices were on the ballots, including Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and district-based Congressional and Legislative seats. In my mind, these primaries are just as critical as the following general elections. Why? Because if you are a voter of only one political party, a staunch party-liner as it is sometimes labelled, then naturally you should want the absolute best candidate to run against your opposing party (or enemy?). Simple, right?

But I am not a strictly party-line voter who has no serious opinion or does no research into each individual candidate, their campaign platform, or their background and government experience. Though millions of Americans forfeit their votes and voices with no regret (unless their demi-god candidate or incumbent loses?), I can’t do that. I know many of my family members and a few friends who enjoy being a strict party-line voter because it’s easy, brainless, and they don’t waste any of their own precious time or personal priorities during primary or election years. And tragically they are not alone, as you’ll soon read about most Texas registered or unregistered voters.

My conscience nor my civil virtue, duty, and privilege to be an active part of my democracy, my state’s and country’s future, will not allow me, and refuses to let me be so lazy or irresponsible. So, I have been an Independent voter for near 30-years, for many reasons I won’t go into detail today. However, I’ve never been a fan of strict party-line voting—it enables and nurtures bad democratic, civil habits, naivete, and closed-mindedness.

Ahh… but “Que Será, Será.

Texas turnout this past February and March 1st for Primaries

The prevailing attitude among many Texans, in the happy pleasing song of Doris Day and Frank De Vol is that everything always works out best and beautifully in the end for everyone. Timeout! I am raining on that parade. No, that’s Hollywood fiction, a la la dreamland manufactured in the movies and like sugar-candy fed into people’s own heads. It won’t reflect reality around them, at least not for the decent, rational, typically kind people when it comes to how they’re governed and their following descendants are governed or protected. Nevertheless, this is remarkably a very prevalent attitude and mindset among too many Texans for far too long, as The Texas Tribune has (below) shown yet again.

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“Historically, voter participation in midterm primary elections is dismal in Texas, with less than a quarter of registered voters casting ballots most years. This means that a majority of registered voters don’t participate. These figures also do not account for the eligible voters in the state that have not registered.”

— Mandy Cai & Sneha Day, The Texas Tribune, accessed March 7, 2022 at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/02/14/texas-primary-voting-turnout/

Many new voting restrictions on non-white Texans and constant “redistricting” or redrawing of district maps by GOP lawmakers for both Congressional state chambers, delegations, and our State Board of Education—to rewrite Texas history, among many other curriculum subjects—will impact voter turnout in Texas, making what was already historically dismal even worse for at least the next decade.

As you might imagine, this cycle of repetition I’ve seen and witnessed in Texas-voting, lawmaking, and quite literally segregating of citizens, of voters and would-be voters over the last 30-years has nauseated my stomach so much that I’ve probably developed ulcers and/or Crohn’s Disease. It is so very depressing and frustrating how a shrinking political demographic the last two decades, a near minority if not already one, is still maintaining (legally? Constitutionally?) its stranglehold and power over the entire state! How? How is this possible in a supposedly freely elected democracy?

It seems Ross Ramsey, also of The Texas Tribune, has a prescription of relief for me and other progressive, open-minded, diversity-advocate Freethinkers and typically non- or anti-Conservatives of Texas. He calls it The Fred Rogers Test. It is intended for Texas public officials who by principle and by vow, are elected and sworn into office to SERVE us Texans. Give a listen, please. It’s worth the 4.5-minutes of your time.

If you’d rather read the column, go here.

Fred Rogers, of PBS’ Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Here is one paragraph I found particularly profound, poignant, and accurate by Mr. Ramsey:

“Candidates are good at describing problems. They’re great at sweeping phrases, too, like “if elected, I’ll fix that.” But they speak in generalities, and what happens when they’re elected — or more to the point, what doesn’t happen — somehow slips past voters when it’s time to put people in office.”

— Ross ramsey, The Texas Tribune, accessed March 7, 2022 at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/03/07/texas-elections-problems/

Mr. Ramsey goes on to list many key, critical problems Texas is facing and has been facing for at least two-decades, probably more like four-decades. One I liked and which resonated with me:

“Teachers in Texas are overworked, underpaid, micromanaged and asked to do a lot more than teach children. Everybody says that, everybody knows that, and the lawmakers who are now talking about it on the campaign trail are often the same people who didn’t do much to fix it in the last legislative session, or the one before that.”

In an October 2013 blog-post, then Texas Governor candidate Wendy Davis, who I supported fully, asked me personally, one-on-one as a Special Ed teacher for Wards (kids) of the State in Leakey, TX: “Tell me your story? What challenges do you and your family face? What issues should be addressed to strengthen our families?” I was honestly shocked by this personal touch. Never had I received any type of correspondence like that from any Texas politician since I became a legal voter in 1981, not ever! You can read My Story blog-post here.

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Perhaps this Fred Rogers Test can be a very simple guideline for lazy Texas voters and unregistered voters. I really do hope so. It’s a start. If not an embraced, motivating voter’s guide for lazy Texans, then the alternatives WILL be disturbing, possibly irreparable if they keep their residence here continuing their personal bubbles of denial. Problems, especially chronic problems, will not simply vanish in time or go away or be ignored as Doris Day and Frank De Vol sing you into a dreamy trance. Progressive, evolving democracy is not a toy soldier or monkey you wind-up, let it go, and expect it to run indefinitely. Democracy was never designed to be a type of nuclear power-plant that runs in and of its self, indefinitely with no input or maintenance. It is so much more, much to precious and fragile. It can die if one ignores its lifeblood or turns one’s back on her at the polls, PTA meetings, and town forums to name just three civil virtues and privileges we Texans and Americans are gifted and honorably endowed.

Consider this in light of what you are now seeing in Ukraine and to peaceful, non-violent protestors inside Russia being arrested and hauled away to prisons and jails for an indefinite period. That might be you and your own country some day.

Live Well – Love Much – Laugh Often – Listen Closer – Learn Always

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