No Labels (Really)

No Labels (Really)

by | Jun 22, 2024 | From the Campaign Trail

Getting past artificial divides

I was standing on a doorstep in Middle Valley last week when I noticed two men, one older and the other considerably younger, deep in conversation on the porch next door. Their shaded front yard beckoned, so I hung my literature on the door I’d just knocked and took a few steps in their direction.

“Mind if I introduce myself?” I called. “I’m not selling anything.” They turned and looked at me but didn’t say no. 

I never know what to expect when I talk to people not on my canvassing list. However, I can always count on a weeding-out question. I don’t put my party affiliation on my literature because I don’t like labels, but I’ve found they’re unavoidable.

This time the older man mixed it up a bit. “Are you liberal or conservative?”

I considered my choices.

I think our government should be helping families and small businesses thrive, rather than helping wealthy corporations get wealthier. Does that make me liberal?

My Republican opponent calls himself conservative. When he and his colleagues in the legislature aren’t passing huge corporate tax breaks and trying to give public school funds to private schools, they’re inserting themselves into our personal medical decisions and putting all of us in greater danger of being shot. 

“I’m liberal,” I said.

“I’m conservative,” the man said. 

I wondered if he pictured me speeding down the highway, tossing fistfuls of tax dollars out my car window. What I was envisioning about him was similarly cartoonish and uncharitable.

His next question threw me: “Do you believe in supporting kids in our foster care system?”

“Yes I do,” I said. Like practically every part of government intended to help families and children, the Department of Children’s Services is notoriously underfunded in Tennessee. I didn’t say what popped into my head: Don’t you?

Turns out the young man had been in the system. He talked about how it had failed him, how he’d lived in the woods for a while. The older man and his wife had taken him in.

I stayed longer than I meant to. The three of us wound up discussing various problems. We didn’t solve any of them, but we got past labels. That’s a start. 

When I said I had to go, the young man ducked into the house and returned with a bottle of water. I thanked them and walked out of the shade and back into the heat.

If you want to restore civility and common sense to our state government, please join my team. Click to donate, volunteer, or get a yard sign.