Post-primary thoughts

Before I started at High Plains Journal I spent many years in community journalism. Elections were revered as part of the Fourth Estate and those of us involved in print publications spent many long hours at election offices in county courthouses.

The results could be spell-binding in waiting for all the ballots to be counted and if myself and other journalists waited long enough we got the front-page scoop.

Those evenings included a mixture of highs and lows, briskness and inactivity as we waited for results. Candidates would usually stop into the courthouse with a piece of paper and several supporters accompanied them.

In nearly all cases the candidates were cordial, even in a heated race. Occasionally, tempers flared but I never saw open hostility. Candidates, rightfully so, want to win. When a candidate lost most of the time he or she complimented the opponent. Winners were gracious toward those who lost. Major primaries and general elections at times featured ballot questions and that always drew more people to the polls.

Regardless of the race we’d post the results on the front door of our offices so that late-night and early-morning passerbys could see the results.

Today’s primaries and general elections don’t resemble much of the spirit. The advance of websites and social media has meant people could sit at home and get the results before they went to bed (except in the 2018 Republican race for Kansas governor.)

Analysis of the races, which included interviews and once a bastion of the media, has ceased in many cases, reduced to a sound bite that few people remember.

Special questions are often times undertaken by mail ballot and those elections often mean greater participation by constituents but comes at a price with lower overall voter participation in a primary or general election.

All of this is not just noticed by myself but others who have extensive journalism backgrounds.

The opportunity to interact and spar with journalists was good for voters, candidates and observers. Working with the media was the best way for a candidate to tell his or her story. Many still relish the relationship and building an inclusive coalition to solve problems. A growing trend is being antagonistic toward the media and those with divergent views.

In the heartland, it is in everyone’s best interest to work together to solve problems, with common sense-oriented city or county officials, legislators, members of Congress and governors. After all, they are the ones who appoint neighbors to zoning and economic development boards and advisory councils.

The trend toward only serving supporters and being openly hostile toward others does not serve constituents. My best hope is that voters will take time to stop this trend because our future depends on finding solutions and we have many problems to solve.