A good friend of mine is a teacher and an officer in her local teacher’s union. In her words, she doesn’t support John Kerry, doesn’t like John Kerry, and doesn’t trust John Kerry.
Several months ago, she attended her union’s national convention in Washington, D.C. It’s no secret that teachers overwhelmingly support Democrats, and this was in evidence as my friend attended the various speeches and activities at the convention. There was clearly an informal dress code at these events, with attendees abundantly clad in all manner of Kerry paraphernalia—shirts, buttons, hats, signs, the whole bit. My friend, concerned about how her peers would react to her lack of Kerry trappings, opted for union-wear. She hoped a strong expression of pro-unionism would be enough to keep them at bay. It was not. She had Kerry materials thrust at her, was challenged on her lack of support for Kerry, and was made to feel physically uncomfortable by complete strangers, all because she didn’t outwardly express support for their candidate.
I bring this up to make a point that has been on my mind for some time. My friend is a strong lady, not the type to let others tell her how to think or act, but she was intimidated. Having been a teacher, and having weathered union pressures myself, I know what that feels like. I can only assume that many others--teachers, students, lawyers, entertainers, union members of all walks—experience these pressures daily. Some of these people are tough and assert their minority views in the face of intimidation. Others simply try to keep their heads down and not make waves. Still others are so intimidated that they compromise. They will put on the Kerry shirt, laugh at the anti-Bush joke, go along with the crowd.
And that, of course, is why we hold secret ballots. The voting booth is a sanctuary where we can escape external pressures and be true to the beliefs we often dare not express publicly. My sense is that this mechanism is more important in this election than it has been in many years. There is a large amount of vitriol in this campaign, particularly coming from the Left. Because of this, I believe there are many voters who will not support the President publicly—in the workplace, in social settings, even in the polls—but who will walk into that booth on November 2nd, and pull the lever for the George Bush.