a recent function I met a 21-year-old young man who is also
an alumni of Western Maryland College. We discussed many
things, from the impending name change of the school to
the current state of the economy.
What surprised me, however, was during some discussions
about things politic and about government he responded that
he "wasn't interested in things like that."
I was surprised as I thought that he, a recent college graduate
from a liberal arts college, would, beyond a doubt, be interested
in matters such as those.
Yet, when questioned as to why he was so disinterested,
he responded something to the effect of, "nothing I could
do could change things anyway." He summed his position up
by saying, "Nothing I do or can say matters in a system
as broken as ours is."
I was stunned. I couldn't believe someone so young and well
educated could feel so disenfranchised.
I attempted, to no avail, to prove to him you can indeed
change things, even if in some little way if you try hard
I discussed this conversation with several other people
to gauge their thoughts on this young man's feelings. To
my surprise, many, actually most, of the people I talked
to feel as this young man does.
When I queried as to whether they felt disenfranchised from
the national, state or local level, they responded, "All."
What a sad state of affairs.
The general consensus of opinion is that people feel that
most elected officials only truly represent their own interests.
They say the only other way to get truly heard is if you
contribute to the elected person's campaign coffers or are
perceived as being able to further the goals of said elected
person. These folks could list many examples to prove their
Interestingly, most people with whom I spoke turned the
tables on me and asked me why these feelings would surprise
me in light of what occurred during my races for public
I was puzzled. I asked them to tell me what they meant,
to give me examples of what they were talking about. After
all, I was the one who ran, so wouldn 't I know what happened
to me during my campaigns?
No one would ever call me a Pollyanna. Yet, I guess I had
a belief in the system and in people that I never realized
Maybe I was just being stupid and wanted to believe in something
so badly that I chose to see beyond certain behavior in
order to fulfill my view of the world.
After reflection, I realized it is probably the second of
these two assertions that happened. Here is why.
I will focus more on my race for alderman, more so than
the race for delegate in 1998, though the end result comes
as a result of things that happened during both.
I realize now that during this campaign, I was isolated.
Isolated from my running mates on the aldermanic ticket
and isolated from the nominee for mayor.
I realize now that many active Democrats and Democratic
office holders helped other candidates actively, while my
team was made up of volunteers whom I begged, beat and busted
to get them to help pass out literature, put up signs, make
phone calls and so forth.
I realize now that, even though I was on the Democratic
ticket, I was really considered deadweight, the fifth place
finisher in the primary, who, while technically on the ticket,
was a liability.
While a few felt it was great that we had two black candidates,
three women candidates and a gay candidate, I realize now,
that I was just being humored.
I was looked at as kind of like the daft son who everyone
tolerates at the dinner table on holidays, but who isn't
invited anywhere the rest of the year.
It is shocking to find out the things that happened, the
campaigning that candidates did together, the joint meet
and greets and fund-raisers that occurred between some of
What did I do to cause these people to dislike me so?
It took these discussions to make me realize that while
they may have liked me, "as a person", the "gay thing" far
outweighed anything else.
Why should these people embrace me when they can support
each other without a risk? Why should they risk losing by
embracing me (and thus be tainted by the "gay thing"), when
ultimately the goal is to win, right?
The people I spoke with told me how it hurt to watch other
candidates turn away from me when I would go up to them
They told me it was frustrating to hear ideas I came up
with first usurped by other candidates who took credit for
them - especially when that candidate came up with no new
ideas on their own.
They said it was difficult to watch someone who lives an
honest life, as one said a "Christian life", where I try
to improve the world around me, lose to people who have
hidden or bent the truth simply for their own gain.
They told me they couldn't stand watching me work as hard
as I did only to have other candidates in my own party spread
untruths and innuendoes about my beliefs and reasons for
They said they couldn't understand why the bulk of my contributions
came from those who are affiliated with other parties while
I was working so hard to promote the Democratic team. Note:
though 4 of 6 elected in November are Democrats, it was
a Republican who invited me to the inaugural festivities.
They said it was miserable to watch me being pigeon holed
as the "gay candidate" when only 6 gay/lesbian people in
Frederick helped the campaign in any way. (For those of
you who don't know, I am criticized by gay folk in more
biting and vicious terms and on a more regular basis than
I am by the "Christian Coalition," so I guess I don't fit
The list went on and on.
I sat amazed as I heard these things unfold before me.
I thought at first of a statement made by a woman - days
before the votes were even counted - that she "hoped my
loss wouldn't prevent me from staying involved in some way."
She said that I ran a good race for my first time (and she
lived here in 1998) but pointed out that people aren't ready
to vote for a "gay" yet.
At the same time she was supporting a candidate who had
only lived in Frederick for 2 years. She told me that I
needed to do things in Frederick to "prove myself."
She thought that I needed to ask Herzonner, when she won,
to appoint me to some boards and commissions to "gain experience"
and "learn about Frederick."
She said this while her car sported a "Dougherty for Mayor"
How ironic is that, though? I am supposed to serve on boards
and commissions to "gain experience", yet the one we elected
mayor, didn't? Why the double standard?
She continued that serving Frederick in that capacity would
help me become "less threatening to people" and would help
show people that I had gained the experience I needed to
serve - should I ever chose to run again.
With that kind of ringing endorsement, would you?
Yet that one conversation sums up my entire campaign experience
in the party that begins with D.
As a result of this self-examination, I am torn as to what
I should do. My initial reaction is to say "to hell with
it." I have other things to do with my life rather than
deal with this kind of overt/covert bigotry. But that would
make all the wrong people way too happy.
Some thought was put as to whether I should switch to the
party that starts with R.
That's funny to think about. But the reality of the matter
is that outside of giving the lion's share of money to fund
my candidacy, many "R's" have been the most public and helpful
to me emotionally during my public life.
Many R's have encouraged me to switch. Yet in a party with
Alex Mooney, Tim Ferguson and others who promote policies
that would exclude me from the protection of law (not to
mention the wish that I didn't exist at all) makes the likelihood
of a switch in parties doubtful.
Further, I have had to question if I really believe that
participating in the process really matters at all. I mean,
geez, my experience really has been that no matter what
I have said to whom, nothing has changed.
Or has it?
The few that said I should be proud of what I have accomplished
say that I should take refuge in knowing that issues of
tolerance, equality and civil rights that would not have
been discussed have been as a result of my work.
They say that I should be proud that I add to the debate
by writing for The Tentacle, by being on Pressing Issues
on Adelphia's Cable 10, by testifying at City and Winchester
Halls and in Annapolis.
These folks say that I may help change things through this
process and that public service comes in many forms. They
say I should be happy to do what I can and that winning
isn't really everything after all.
Unlike one candidate who ran for alderman who actually told
people she was only running "for something to do," I have
run for office because I was raised in a home where you
were taught to give back to the community in which you lived.
In that vein, I should be satisfied doing what I can, no
matter the form it takes.
It's just that so far, I am not certain if there are but
a few close friends who really care.
One day I want to be invited to sit at the adult table not
because I am the daft son who must be tolerated, but because
someone has recognized that I am a full-fledged deserving
person who can add something to the debate.
The 21-year-old Western Maryland alumni called me the other
day and wanted to know if we could go to lunch. He said
that since he is just starting out in business, he would
appreciate any advise I might be able to give.
Should I tell him he was right all along?