Somehow it’s affirming to come home to messages on my answering machine. It means that someone has something to say to me. It infers that I’m valued, that someone cares.
Then I listen to the messages.
In recent days, most of those messages have been mean-spirited attacks from one presidential candidate or another. I answer the phone with my most pleasant “Hello,” and I’m greeted by a Doberman in full attack mode.
Frankly, most of the messages have been from Mitt Romney. And most have been alleging that Rick Santorum’s voting record is inconsistent with his platform as a candidate. And Santorum has characterized Romney as out of touch with the common man and as too similar to Barack Obama to present a clear alternative in this fall’s general election. It’s all a little difficult to digest in a 30-second telephone message.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m glad the candidates are finally paying attention to Illinois. And beyond that, they seem to have some recognition that civilization in our state doesn’t end at the Cook County line.
If they'd spend a little time here, they'd find that the people of this great state have something to say to them. And they'd find what small-town folks think about the brawl that has come to characterize our political process.
On Sunday, Santorum was scheduled to make a stop in Vandalia. Candidate Bill Clinton campaigned on the Vandalia Statehouse lawn and presidential hopeful Barack Obama pressed the flesh at The Depot. But we haven't seen a presidential candidate in this election. Santorum's plan to stop here fell apart late last week when his campaign decided to take the downstate tour via airplane rather than by car. Thus, his stop in South-Central Illinois was shifted to Effingham. There, he spoke to several hundred supporters in a warehouse near the Effingham airport. He missed a great photo opportunity here. Instead of boxes and warehouse shelving in the background, he could’ve had the beautiful Vandalia Statehouse as a backdrop.
Oh well. His loss.
And not to be outdone, Ron Paul supporters set up camp across the road from the warehouse, waving signs and yelling at cars as they turned into the warehouse parking lot. That way, they got their candidate’s name in front of people even if the doctor wasn’t in the house.
Though we’re now past the Illinois primary, it was good to know that in some small way we were acknowledged – for a fleeting moment – as a place that matters.