Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Didja Vote?

"Didja vote?" is how I was greeted this morning when I walked in the door at work. I hadn't yet, as a matter of fact--and there was something about the tone of Cranky Boss Lady's words that just struck me as wrong. She's one of those people for whom voting is not merely a right or even a responsibility but some kind of contest--she actually asks people, "What number were you?" And when they say, "117" (or "I have no friggin' idea nor do I give a crap 'cuz I didn't know there was gonna be a quiz") she will say in this boastful voice, "Well, I was 64." (Or whatever.)

She's one of those overenthusiastic voters who not only make speeches about the importance of voting but actively nag people around them to vote. (I was far from the last person greeted with "Didja vote?") I'm all for getting out the vote but there seems to be a fine line between encouraging voters and haranguing them. Of course, Cranky Boss Lady is often on the harangue-side of the line in this and other matters (hence the Cranky nickname), so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

I guess one of the things that gets me about Cranky Boss Lady in particular is that she seems to take such deep (and competitive) pride in voting even though it is her only involvement in politics and in her community. She's not signing petitions or staging demonstrations or even answering the surveys her elected representatives send to her house. Basically she thinks she can vote once or twice a year and wash her hands of it--content in the knowledge that she's done her share.

The other thing that bugs me about CBL is that her education on political matters is built on a foundation of political ads and gut instincts--this guy looks "nicer" or more "honest" than that one; that gal (yes, she actually uses that word and no, she's not 86, only 55, so I have no idea...) has a better commercial, etc. Forgive me, but that gut instinct thing, especially, is dangerous--wasn't there a poll a few years ago saying that more people would want to have a beer with George W. than his opponent and that a stunning (and frightening) number of people actually took that into consideration at the polls?

Which brings me to what will no doubt be a spectacularly unpopular opinion on this fine Election Day--I said earlier that I'm all for getting out the vote, which is only partly true because I think the last thing we need is more voters who are chosing candidates for the sorts of reasons CBL is choosing hers.

When I called home this afternoon to ask Hubby if he wanted to go vote with me, he said, "Well, honestly, I know I should, but I don't feel I know enough about the candidates in most of the races to make a really informed choice so not this time." When I got done teasing him for shirking his civic duty and offering to give him a cheat sheet so he could vote for all the people I was voting for so I could get two votes for the price of one without having to resort to Ann Coulter's tactics, I realized he was actually making a noble and sensible decision.

The fact is that not only do not enough people vote, but way too many people vote as well. This is by no means a partisan statement--just an obvious truth.* As for the people who are eligible and educated and don't vote anyway, I have a theory about them as well (surprise, surprise).

Much is made of "voter apathy" (328,000 hits on Google), but I think we might not all be as apathetic as we're made out to be. I think a lot of people care but are at a loss--look at the candidates, look at the lack of quality debate, look at the ads that seem to talk only about how unqualified the other candidate is rather than talk about how qualified the touted candidate is--I think what we feel is "voter despair."

I know that part of the reason I didn't vote this morning before I went to work was I thought, "What the hell's the point?" (That and I hit the snooze alarm way too many times.) I know that a lot of my friends and family who vote do so with a sort of "I did it, but I'm not sure it really means anything" feeling. Imagine how many more people are thinking it doesn't mean anything and then not showing up. But that's not the same as not caring--that's something else altogether. It's knowing the system is broken and feeling powerless to do anything about it.

Once, a couple of years ago, I saw a debate on CNN between a group of pundits and the chairperson of some state's lottery commission. They were talking about how irresponsible it was of the state to sponsor something that causes so much financial and emotional hardship for so many.

The chairperson spoke up about the importance of differentiating between chronic gambling addicts and your average citizen who just buys a couple of tickets a week--for that sort of person, she said, lottery tickets provided entertainment and a sense of hope. One of the pundits retorted: "Yes, but look at the odds--it's false hope."

The chairperson said, "Well, sometimes false hope is better than no hope at all." That struck me as both callous and profound.

So I voted. And I voted because I guess false power is better than no power at all.

*If you made even a cursory attempt to educate yourself on the issues, and you still want to vote Republican, have at it, baby. I personally don't understand it, but that's the way things work in our great land.


  1. Please pass this website on to hubby (yours not mine): www.politics1.com It has information pertaining to each candidates platform and stance on the issues. By the way, I did vote -- and now, have the right to complain about what the elected officials do while in office. I believe that if you do not make a choice to vote, you have no right to complain about the elected officials who are in office and being total screw-ups. (My soapbox for the day).

  2. Thanks for the link, I passed it along for Hubby so he can study up next time around. And I know what you mean about the complaining/voting connection--and it actually sort of goes to what I was saying about despair.

    Wouldn't it be nice to vote with a real sense of hope that one of the candidates would be more than just less of screw-up than the other? Not that that makes any sense, but you've known me long enough to get what I mean. (That probably makes you a little worried, huh?)