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Jackson: Primaries defined by few who are informed

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:05 AM

It turns out the handy bromide — "If it weren't for deadlines, nothing would get done" — is not entirely accurate, as Tuesday demonstrated. Sometimes, it seems, procrastinators can be so thoroughly involved in their procrastination, deadlines pass without so much as a raised eyebrow.

Balloting in the primary election ended at 7 p.m. Tuesday. We mention that here because more than 80 percent of Pasco's voters appeared to take no notice, or perhaps the cutoff caught them aware.

Wait. This is merely an observation, not a complaint. Perhaps the turnout represented the absolute limit of voters who had applied research to ideology to arrive at an opinion about the candidates and the issues.

Elsewhere you may discover apoplectic handwringing and guilt-flinging over voter apathy — The fortunes spent! The lives risked! The blood spilled! — but that is not the case here. If the informed and motivated portion of the electorate rises only to some small fraction of the whole, better them casting ballots than a mob of know-nothings caving to instinct, alphabetical order and peer pressure.

Linda Rockwell, 64, an intensive-reading teacher at Pasco High School, has it figured out. Having been lured to her precinct at Dade City's First Baptist Church by the race for schools superintendent, Rockwell conceded she didn't cast a full ballot.

"It's better not to vote," she says, "than to cast an uninformed vote."

Rockwell would have the admiration of the Founding Fathers. After all, at the gallows, Nathan Hale's regret had nothing to do empowering the clueless to cancel out the well-considered ballot. So, to those who voted after accomplishing the wearisome task of doing their campaign homework, cheers. And for the cheerfully oblivious who stayed home, thanks for not messing things up.

See? Everybody has a reason to be at least a little bit proud today, among them Dade City's Willie Thomas.

"I woke up; I realized it was voting day," Thomas says, "and I knew it was inevitable that I would vote." Having ascertained that he was up to speed on the issues and candidates, we congratulated Thomas on his devotion to duty.

Having duly exercised his well-informed franchise at the First Baptist Church, Thomas, 66, a retired chemical analyst, steered deftly toward the big throw down in November with remarks that seemed to run a little interference for President Barack Obama.

In a nutshell, Thomas declared what he believes are two essential truths: First, the era of full employment is over; second, beware any politician who claims he has a plan to alter the first.

"The main thing all these politicians talk about is jobs, employment," Thomas said. "There's never, ever going to be full employment again in this technological age. No matter what they do, they'll never get there, unless they bring back slavery.

"Yes, they'd have to abolish the 13th Amendment," he added, "and I say that as an African-American citizen."

Maybe Thomas was simply extending the remarks of Vice President Joe Biden, who'd only hours earlier warned — according to CBS News, an "African-American audience — in Danville, Va., about the eagerness of banks and Republicans "to put y'all back in chains."

We are eager to see the Obama campaign team whip that fascinating connection into a commercial targeting minority neighborhoods. Meanwhile, what must the discussions be like around the dinner table of Dawne and Jim Drumm?

Dawne, a surgical technician in Lakeland, and Jim, the Zephyrhills city manager, insist (not unlike Willie Thomas) on two things: They don't vote along party lines. And they don't always offset each other's ballots.

Said Dawne, having emerged from the precinct at Alice Hall, "Today, I think, we didn't cancel each other out." Jim, nodded his agreement. "But there are times we do. In November, probably, we'll do it again."

And so it went through a long, if largely uneventful, Tuesday that set the stage for what promises to be a compelling drama right through Nov. 6. If you're planning to show up, the time to get in the game is now.


tjackson@tampatrib.com (813) 371-1851 https://www.facebook.com/TomJacksonTribune Twitter: @tjacksonTribune

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