We all know what it means to get a participation ribbon. It’s a nice way of saying you lost.
But the ribbon means more than that: It also says you didn’t quit. You stayed in the race.
In politics, especially during campaign season, there’s no shortage of quitters—candidates who can’t even earn a participation ribbon. Their quitting is irksome because their names often still appear on ballots and cannot be removed, according to state statute.
Only 21 days after filing his nomination papers, Andy Gronik became the first of the 10 contenders for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to drop out of the race last month. In an unjust twist, the state Elections Commission randomly selected his name to appear first on the Aug. 14 primary ballot. Simply by virtue of being listed first, Gronik is bound to steal votes from candidates trying to stand out from the pack and finish the race.
Dana Wachs, whose name appears last on the ballot, also dropped out of the Democratic primary 21 days after filing his nomination papers.
We hope the votes that go to them don’t change the outcome of a close contest.
We also hope the race for governor doesn’t become like Wisconsin’s 2016 Republican presidential primary when only three of the 12 candidates on the ballot—Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump—were still running campaigns at the time of the April 5 election.
Politics has always been the domain of opportunists. Many are quick to declare their candidacy and file nomination papers, kicking off their campaigns with catchy slogans and platitudes about serving the people. But as soon as these candidates encounter any sort of headwind, they bail. They’re not interested in finishing what they started.
This I-can’t-win-so-I-quit mindset seemed to drive Brad Boivin’s decision to exit the Republican primary for 1st Congressional District seat.
He’ll still be on the Aug. 14 Republican primary ballot, but he announced Monday, 31 days after filing his nomination papers, he’s dropping out and backing Bryan Steil’s candidacy. For many people, Steil became the anointed one after receiving House Speaker Paul Ryan’s endorsement June 18. “The reality is, you need a lot of money to win an election, and my campaign unfortunately fell short,” Boivin told The Gazette.
Money—or the lack of it—is the ultimate campaign killer. We get it. But it’s too bad these fly-by-night candidates remain on the ballot. By law, ballots must be set 47 days before Election Day to accommodate anyone requesting an absentee ballot, including service members stationed overseas. It’s not feasible to change the rules under the current system, and so this problem won’t be solved anytime soon.
In the meantime, we should do more to celebrate those who stay in the race, perhaps by awarding them a participation ribbon on Election Day. Sure, participation ribbons are corny, but they are a validation.
They signify perseverance, a willingness to risk finishing last.