Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Take This Poll & Shove It

There have been a lot of popular myths in our culture throughout the years: Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the female G-spot, "Ghetto-Fabulous," the existence of Dane Cook's talent etc.

There probably hasn't been a more dangerous and widely-accepted myth however, than the belief that voting in a governmental election is a fundamental right which should be availed of at any cost; and that encouraging people to vote -- regardless of their knowledge of the candidates, issues or the correct direction to turn the knob to get out of their front door -- is always a good idea.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, P. Diddy -- a man who knows as much about politics as I know about flying the space shuttle -- launched the single most laughable get-out-the-vote drive in modern history. "Vote or Die" was memorable not only for its painfully ambiguous slogan and those silly t-shirts which bore it, but also for its attempt to convince a generation whose primary cultural influences were Paris Hilton and Ashton Kutcher to exercise their God-given right to alter the course of American history by pressing a single button (and doing almost nothing else).

Understand something -- I in no way want a decision which will affect every man, woman and child in America left in the hands of someone whose last experience with the electoral process was texting TRL for the 132nd time to ensure that L'il Jon & The West Side Boyz remain at the top of the countdown.

It's unfair though to target just Diddy and the relatively few over whom he holds sway.

The fact is that as of today we're three short weeks away from the mid-term elections, and as expected, the vote-at-all-costs campaigns are well underway. They're on TV, on the radio and on the internet -- and they all repeat the same message: "It doesn't matter who you vote for, just vote."

Except that it does matter who you vote for; as we've come to understand all-too-well over the past few years, it matters a great deal.

Voting is indeed a right, but it's also a privilege -- and one which shouldn't be taken lightly; encouraging people to vote without also encouraging them to learn about who and what they're voting for is nothing short of criminally irresponsible.

So here's a different message: if you have no idea what the candidates stand for and what the issues are, do this country a favor and stay home on November 7th.

Because there's nothing more dangerous than an idiot with a ballot -- except maybe the idiot that person elects.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, perhaps. However, morons with ballots that watch MTV probably won't be voting for people on the ballots - they'll be checking the "other" box and writing in Justin Timberlake. Encouraging that croud to learn about what they're voting for would be pointless - it'd be like telling them to do their algebra homework. But the thing is, with these Diebold voting machines it's important to get more people into the booths so that when people hack them later. If I can get a thousand bimbos to go push their buttons and then hijack their votes later for a third-party candidate that no one saw coming, I'd be happy.

Anonymous said...

All this "___ The Vote" Organizations always talk about disappointing voter turn out numbers. Have they fucking seen the choices? It's come down to picking some dickhead rich guy who's going to lie to you about his feelings but is believed to be honest and some other dickhead rich guy who feels that "the almighty" has chosen him to lead this nation. It's utterly ridiculous and disheartening at the same time. It disgusting how being a politician is more about celebrity and money than it is about conviction and character.

So to all the "___ the Vote" people...leave me the Fuck alone. Give me a real option and I'll be the first in line at the booth ready to punch the chad [chuckles to self].

Discouragement Kitten said...

Yea - in what world does it make sense to vote for something that you know nothing about. Who believes this shit. Why?

Not Relaxed said...

I'm not really sure where this belief that we all have a right to vote even came from. It's not in the Constitution.

Stupid people are scary, but the religious political institutions are far worse.

Alex Barreto said...

Not relaxed, unless you were kidding, see below:

Article. I., Section. 2.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States...

Emphasis on "the People".

Anonymous said...

People should know who they are voting for, but the generational swipe was clumsy and unnecessary.

Who cares if you don't want younger people voting because of some gross generalization you've drawn about the whole bloody lot of them?

Voting is indeed a privelege, but it is first and foremost a right. Drawing a distinction suggests we needn't take our rights seriously.

Chez said...

It would indeed be wrong to say that everyone from any large group of people can be held to the same standard, but my point was that -- yes -- just about anyone who can be influenced by Diddy or 97% of the other "celebrities" who participated in the Vote or Die campaign more than likely has an opinion that isn't worth listening to (i.e., the political genius pictured in the post).

And for the record, if you want to truly take your rights seriously -- live up to the very large responsibility that goes along with having them.

VOTAR said...


Clearly, what I took away from reading this was not a broad swipe at young people, but an admonition that we should not be satisfied with ignorant people voting. The age of the target audience might not matter all that much, except to say that it's statistically more likely that younger people are simply less informed about politics, and less driven to care about them. Not for a lack of resources or information, but for a lack of a sense of connection with the process, or the result.

The pundits of both parties thrive on this pervading ignorance. About half of them want us fauning over the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, aping expressions like "ditto head" and "drive-by media," calling progressive-thinking people names like "Dems" and "Libs" without really knowing or caring whether the word liberal should have taken on a negative connotation. The other half want us using expressions like "neo-con" and thinking that the foibles of a single closeted gay Republican are somehow a just indictment of all Republicans everywhere, and karmic proof that their side should "win." Nevermind that no one remembers what is at stake to be "won."

Politicians want us concerned with the soundbites and the slogans on the bumperstickers in the parking lots of NASCAR events. They want to keep us worrying whether we live in a blue state or a red state. They want us cheering for either Condi or Hillary....as if these two conniving nagas should be our only choices!

Do ANY of you know the voting record of any of the politicians (local, state, or otherwise) you will be expected to vote for in a few weeks? Have you studied any of the local bond issues, or zoning law language changes, or the precedents set or enforced by any of the judges up for re-election in your community? Is anyone else out there as frightened as I am that Katherine Harris is asking us Floridians -- with what passes on her warped skull as a "straight" face -- to let her become a UNITED STATES SENATOR?????

Of course not. And they know this. Only in this way can the frightening antics you can read about in that last post ("Dumbing up that Hill"...thanks Chez, that was a great read, an eye-opener) be accepted as the norm around here.

Jayne said...

Welcome back, darling Votar. You were missed.

Knowing the territory that you've recently traveled to, far better than I'd like sometimes, I'm wondering how your political views were received there.

Ciao. :)

SmellyTerror said...

It might sound counter-intuitive, but I'm in favour of compulsory voting.

The problem with voluntary voting is that both sides know there are people who will vote for them no matter what, and if they get enough of these to go out and vote they'll win. Elections are focused too much on convincing your own supporters to go out and vote - campaigns have to be emotional, to spur your side to action.

When everyone has to vote, the election campaign must be much more focused on changing people's minds. Sure, emotional stuff still gets wheeled out, but it's not nearly so effective and hence it's used a lot less.

This is the system used in my country (Australia). Note that it doesn't mean you have to actually *vote* - you just have to turn up. It's perfectly acceptable to put in a "donkey vote" - one that is just crossed out, or with a joke on it, or something similar. If we could just convince people who don't know the issues to put in donkey votes, the system would achieve perfection.

...of course, whether you actually want "the masses" to be deciding a damn thing is another matter altogether.

Julie said...

I suspect this was the kind of conversation that led to the development of the electoral college. This in turn led to the mess we're in now. I like to call these the coup d'etats years.

I think we should all do what one of my sainted relatives used to do. She would drive all typical non-voters she knew to the polling place, all the while telling them who to vote for, thereby stuffing the ballot box for the good guys.

As for Katherine Harris, welcome to my world. She played ball just like PA Sen. (gasp) Arlen Spector and more recently Tom Ridge. Good luck.

Stuka said...

I always liked the discription for democracy that goes like this:

"It's the least worst of political system there is."

Obligatory voting doesn't sound bad, would get more people to the button.

But the main problem, I think, is with how and what information gets to the masses.
When comerce influences news, and studies about the attention span of vieuwers dictate the lenght (read: depth) of news, how much real information gets to the average MTV brain?

Teach them to find the right sources. Teach them to read.

Anonymous said...

Alex Barreto, that covers House members, but not Senators or the President. Senators were originally voted on by House members, and the President by the electoral college. The founding fathers never wanted every citizen to vote for the president because they knew everyone would not be qualified, hence the electoral college. People were crying about the popular vote in 2000, but the popular vote isn't what you need to win the presidency.

SteveA said...

the least of the worst is a republic, which is what we were until you let government schooling convince you that you lived in a democracy.

not relaxed,
the right for all is an ammendment to the original constitution. Originally, only educated people ("white" "land owners") were allowed to vote. The idea being they would have the time and education to make proper decisions. It also was conceived along with the idea that we would have limited federal government (states rights).

the electoral college did not get us in the mess we are in today, and that view makes me hope you are one of the people that won't vote this November, or any November, until you understand how our government works.

Kitty X said...

I loved the Vote or Die campaign, not because of what it stood for, but for the buffoonery it unmasked. After posing for countless photos, doing interviews, etc., Paris Hilton revealed that she hadn't voted, and if I remember correctly, wasn't even registered. The people campaigns like this one target start their day with school, end it with TRL and dinner at the 'rents or booze with the friends - the fact that a particular morning is election morning usually only occurs to those who know (or at least believe that they know) what's going on around them and who the power players are. I don't think Paris Hilton or P. Diddy moved any large group of people to vote. I think it moved them to buy t-shirts and debate the war in Iraq over their lunch tables. Not really a threat to our political process. The real threat lies in talk radio - and that goes for both parties.

Chez said...


You're one of those guys who constantly calls my newsroom and every other one across the country to "correct" every little goddamned thing they deem to be a factual error, in an effort to prove to themselves that they know more than just about everyone and therefore shouldn't be working the cash register at the local Stop-N-Go.

Yeah -- now that I think about it, we usually make fun of that guy after we hang up on him.

VOTAR said...

was steve factually wrong about something?

Chez said...

Nope. Not really the point however.

First of all, nothin' but love for you Stevie. Really.

My point is -- as simplistic as this is -- nobody likes a know-it-all, and in this case the definition of that term is someone who corrects three people at the same time.

It's a little obnoxious.

But Votar my friend -- you may have found a drinking buddy.

: )

Stevie said...

I'd vote for dictatorship, Democracy just gives the vote to any idiot....

Julie said...

Oh, sure, that stop n shop guy is right. I stand corrected.

choenbone said...

quite honestly im tired of hearing the canidates bitch about the other canidates. i think if they want to whine about the other canidates they shoud all locked in a cage and made to fight each other UFC style. whomever can walk away and put a coherent sentence together would get my vote...or mebee not. but it'd be more interesting.

Discouragement Kitten said...

I thought of you when I read this - you probably heard about it too. This is pretty fucked.

Million-dollar lottery incentive to vote is good bet to make ballot

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
May. 25, 2006 12:00 AM

If someone offered you a chance at $1 million just for going to the polls, would you do it?

It appears that Arizonans will get the chance to decide for themselves. A measure to create an unusual state lottery appears to have enough signatures to be on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The proposal by Tucson physician Mark Osterloh would require state election officials to pull one ballot at random after each primary and general election. That person would win $1 million. advertisement

But whether that would encourage voters remains to be seen. A statewide survey conducted in 2003, when Osterloh proposed the idea, showed that only 12 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to vote if they had a chance of becoming a millionaire.

An additional 10 percent said the lottery would make them less likely. Nearly everyone else told pollster Fred Solop that it would make no difference at all.

Despite that, Osterloh, who has put more than $100,000 into the campaign, insists that the gamble is worth it if it brings more people to the polls.

Osterloh said only about half of the people eligible to vote register. And only half of those show up on election day.

Behind Osterloh's drive is the premise that it makes sense to offer financial incentives to get people motivated to help decide who should be elected to local, state and national office.

Osterloh said it's just like religion: Sometimes incentives are necessary.

"What does God say? Do what you're supposed to do and I will reward you with eternal life in heaven," he said. "The only thing we're saying is do what you're supposed to do with voting and we'll reward you with a chance to win a million dollars."

That also presumes that it's good public policy to urge people to vote who may not care enough about the issues to educate themselves.

Solop noted that three-quarters of those questioned in his 2003 survey opposed the lottery concept. He said there's a good chance that people who don't want the lottery are the people who vote. That means they will probably affect the outcome of this initiative because they may not want to encourage others to come to the polls.

"Some people would argue that if you're offering this lottery system maybe you're attracting people to the polls who really don't care about the issues, haven't researched the candidates, don't have as great a stake in the system," Solop said. "Other people's voice will then be diluted."

Osterloh dismisses that concern. He said that once people decide they intend to vote, even if only for a chance at the million-dollar prize, he expects they will educate themselves on the races.

The initiative is structured with a sweetener: If it does get approved in November there will be two millionaires. The initiative is retroactive, meaning state officials will have to draw one name from the Sept. 12 primary and another from the November race.

Osterloh has a track record on ballot measures.

He was one of the organizers of the original Healthy Arizona initiative. That 1996 measure, approved overwhelmingly by voters, expanded free health care programs for the working poor.

In 1998, Osterloh helped put together the Clean Elections Act, which sets up a system of voluntary public financing for candidates for statewide office. Two years later, he was one of the founders of the effort to wrest the redistricting process from the hands of lawmakers, giving it to an independent commission.

But his personal political record is less bright.

That includes two attempts to become a state representative, followed in 2000 by a bid for the state Senate. In 2002 he waged an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial primary, losing to Janet Napolitano.