Stay Mad After March

Throughout the country, but particularly in Indiana, March Madness is a serious celebration of both love and hate. For example, my most important bracket had plenty of eggs in the basket of Michigan State. So I temporarily had affection for the Spartans, a team I routinely despise. When it became clear that the nation was watching 15th seeded Middle Tennessee State knock them off in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday night, I found myself rooting for the upset.

Nothing is more American than that.

Americans engage in the tournament with or without their team. Purdue’s early exit from the dance will have no effect on TV ratings here. The madness is bigger than any one team and it never works out exactly as any one fan wants. But we engage in it just the same, making our picks every Spring and hoping for the best.

If we could only translate our commitment to imperfect brackets, unpredictable Cinderella stories, and virtually inevitable let downs into our commitment to our civic duty. This election season is shaping up to have more in common with March Madness then any of us wish. The ideal candidates seem to be scarce, but we have to choose from them any way.

I was watching a focus group discussion this week regarding the two front runners in the presidential race. Several participants were communicating their fear of what Donald Trump as president would actually mean. But many also spoke of their dissatisfaction with Hillary Clinton, and were intimating that they may not vote at all.

Much like failing to fill out your NCAA bracket for the office pool, that just won’t do.

Those of us who vote need to be intolerant of those who don’t. There are so few legitimate reasons to not vote, we don’t even need to discuss them. And as much as I would like to specifically know who could even fathom voting for Trump, making that ignorant move is better than not voting at all. That ignorance is also an argument to end private ballots, though I won’t make that argument today.

Participating in elections is not solely about the outcome. It is important to communicate to your government and this is how we do it.

As things stand right now, it is likely that the Republican nomination for president will still be unresolved when Indiana’s primary is held on May 3. There will certainly be a competitive primary for the GOP nominee for an open U.S. Senate seat. It is unlikely there will be unanswered statewide questions for the Democrats. But with a bigoted fascist on the ballot for president, the most dangerous contender of my lifetime presents a unique opportunity for voters to vote against something.

And that is today’s lesson for adult Americans who think “staying home” on Election Day is ever the right thing to do. It isn’t. Election Day really should be changed to “Decision Day,” or “Feedback Day.” In the case of Donald Trump, he shouldn’t just lose in May, he should be destroyed. By contrast in the U.S. Senate primary, turnout is also vital in that there is a clear distinction between Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young.

All of that before we even get to November, which was the subject of the focus group that got me started on this rant. It is irrelevant whether a voter is lock step with the options on the ballot. It is our job to show up and decide. If the existence of weaknesses in a candidate is a reasonable excuse to not participate in elections, we wouldn’t have them at all. I pay close attention to those running for office, and they all have views and backgrounds that don’t match mine. Candidates are as human as voters after all.

Which leads me back to bracketology. There are no points for leaving the slot blank when you would love to see both teams lose in the Notre Dame/Michigan game. It is inevitable that someone will advance. So even if your accustomed to root against both teams throughout the year, when participating in March Madness, sometimes you are forced to pick the team you hate the least.

There has not been a contending candidate scarier than Donald Trump since George Wallace. I would like to communicate my outrage to him personally, but since I can’t, the absolute least I can do is vote.