Wednesday, October 28, 2015

All Else Being Equal

If two candidates presented with the exact same platform, but one were male and the other were female, for whom would you vote, and why? How about if one were LGBT? How about if one were white? How about if one were Jewish? How about if one were a teenager?

Let's be clear: All of us have our prejudices. And ageism is a prejudice, just as any bias is against a person for attributes he or she presents that are not personality-driven.

An article in the Ithaca Voice about the recent candidates forum makes it pretty clear that Rich John and Elie Kershner share very similar plans and opinions about the county. The main difference, as far as I can tell, is in their comparative ages. Rich has children older than Elie.

Ithaca has a history of very young people doing pretty amazing things. Many of them leave town to do so, but we're lucky enough to have several who've stayed. One ran for Congress in his 20s. The mayor won't turn 30 for a while. The founder and editor of the Ithaca Voice is 20-something. It does start to look as though "they" are taking over.

I have seen people I know who would never cop to racism or sexism deplore Elie's candidacy and deny outright that it has anything to do with anything other than "lack of experience," which we all know is coded language. If Elie were 85, we'd be talking about "lack of energy."

It's worth considering that if Elie is elected, the average age on the County Legislature will still not dip below 50. Yet in the county as a whole, the median age is 30.

I was around for the 26th Amendment. "Old enough to fight, old enough to vote" had been a chant since World War II, but it took until 1971 for an amendment to be written and ratified. Age rules for Congressional and Presidential candidates go back to the Founding Fathers (several of whom were 20-somethings), but for most elected positions in the U.S., if you're old enough to vote, you're old enough to run.

The Founding Fathers, of course, also gave us rules tying voting to the ownership of property. That restriction went away over time, and a good thing, too. Yet it has reared its head in this year's election, with one candidate suggesting that owning a house was an important credential for office. People who ought to have shaken their heads in disbelief instead nodded and said, "Right, right."

These are good people I'm talking about, from the candidate to the people I know who are doing the nodding. It's a lesson for me in how prejudice, deep-seated and denied, can render thoughtless even the best among us.


Steve Adams said...

Very thoughtful.

BC said...

The opposition argument has shades of the tried-and-true Ithaca quip that people want Ithaca to look and feel exactly the way it did when they moved here, whether that be in 2010 or 1970. It drives me crazy when someone prefaces a comment with "I was born here in 1953/I moved here in 1977/I bought my house in Fall Creek in 1983" because that doesn't make the speaker more "correct" in their views, nor should it mean their opinion has more weight.

Seeing young people start to take major roles can be disheartening for those who don't want to start passing the reins to younger generations.