Thursday, November 6, 1997
A belated love letter
to candidates

The Cincinnati Enquirer

My fellow citizens, this is getting embarrassing. According to my favorite morning newspaper, voter turnout Tuesday was ''low.'' Low?

Fewer than half of us got up off our privileged, liposuctioned haunches to vote this week. Why didn't we? Was there a donut sale at Busken's we didn't want to miss? Did we get stuck in traffic? A racquetball game? Getting our legs waxed? Was it just too much trouble?

Actually, it was no trouble at all. No lines. No waiting. Free parking.

Did the watchdog bite?

About 38 percent of all adults voted in Hamilton County. In Clermont, it was about 32 percent, in Warren County, almost 38 percent, and in Butler County, it was about 34 percent. I drove around to a dozen polling places during the day, and saw more poll workers than voters.

Is it our fault? I mean those of us who bring you news of candidates and news of government. In our watchdog zeal, did we convince you that everybody who is a politician is either a crook or a buffoon, not worthy of your attention? Did we make you despise your government?

If I had anything to do with this, I am sincerely sorry. Because I admire government. Not all governments, but ours in particular. My ancestors came here from countries where the only way you could be part of government was if you were born to it.

You couldn't just wake up one morning and decide you wanted to run for the job of king. Citizens were not plagued by pleas for funding. If somebody in power wanted what you had, they just took it. They did not ask for your support every four years. Or even every two years. Or ever.

In this ''off-year'' election, we were merely deciding how workers will be treated when they are injured on the job. And how we will care for our elderly. Whether we want to give more money to our zoo.

Voters in Butler County had the opportunity to say whether they wanted to pay for a new jail. People in Colerain Township could decide if they want a new shopping center on Colerain Avenue.

We weren't electing a president. Or a king. Just a school board, a couple of judges, the governing body for the city of Cincinnati. Just the people who have everything to do with our daily lives.

Mr. Clinton did not devote his personal time to campaign for a baseball stadium on Broadway. He did not get a park named for Ted Berry. He did not make the garbage trucks pick up our yard waste. He did not clean up graffiti from our streets.

You can see why somebody would want to be president of the United States. Although there's more money in running a big company, it must be kind of fun to have your own airplane, your own song and exceptionally nice public housing.

But I wonder why somebody like Bobbie Sterne keeps plugging away. Or John Dowlin. Tyrone Yates probably had to notice that exposing fund-raising improprieties by Al Gore would not earn him points with his own party. But he did it anyway. Charles Winburn stood in the rain with no cameras in sight to challenge street-corner drug dealers.

Flinging around blame

Congressman Rob Portman leaves a family he adores to sit through IRS hearings in Washington, where he does not have public housing or his own airplane. And, by the way, that most detested government agency belongs to us. We elected the people who made the rules and then, according to recent polls, we cheated on those rules every chance we got.

As long as I'm flinging blame around, I'd like to throw some at candidates who promise they're anti-government. As if that is some sort of virtue. Our system of government is wonderful. Terrific. Magical, you might say. Because in the face of media feeding frenzies and dishonor from their own, some of our best people still are willing to apply for the job of elected official.

And all we have to do is choose them.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.