Tuesday, November 02, 2010

stamping my ballot

It is election day in America.

For Oregon, it has been election day for several weeks.  We tend to be a bit eccentric -- both in our politics and in our political institutions.

We have not had polling places for several years now.  Instead of greeting our election board neighbors and the raptorian poll watchers every two years or so at the local school, we have reduced the civic exercise of voting to mail-in ballots.  So, my fellow citizens have been voting and mailing for a couple of weeks.

I understand that most other states have eased up their absentee ballot procedures -- to the point that some voting districts receive a majority of their ballots before election day rolls around.

The best part of the early-voting process is that it throws off the candidates and their campaigns.  Political advertisements once built to a climax on the weekend before election day.   

No longer.  We are now barraged for weeks on end.  With candidates hoping they can manipulate us into a moment of weakness -- just as we are looking at our ballots.

Without television, I miss most of the nonsense.  But I have seen a sample this year. 

I was on the exercise bike at the club the other evening.  I usually read my Kindle while I try to pedal away a bit of fat.  For some reason, I glanced down at the built-in television on the handlebars.

The news was on.  But during a break -- that I swear lasted five minutes -- the political advertisement started running.  They were all attack ads.  And they were often positioned with each opponent's ads being juxtaposed -- making each of them sound like five-year olds trading "did"/"did not".

Attack ads have classically been designed to suppress voter turnout -- or to enrage the true believers.  And they appear to be working this year.  In most states, the Democrats are dis-spirited.  And the Republicans and Independents are invigorated.

I saw that recently.  I was talking to a Democrat friend of mine this weekend.  He was tidying up his place, and I noticed that one piece of mail he was throwing away was his ballot.  When I asked him about it, he simply said he had no interest in voting this year.  He was disappointed with all politicians.

The sentiment is one I can appreciate.  I long ago stopped thinking that politicians could do much good.  If America proposers, it will be despite its political leaders.

But, I cared enough to vote this year.  Not because I am invigorated or enraged.  It is simply something my generation does.  Like bringing flowers on the first date.

And I want to followup later this week on that topic.  Generational politics.

But for today, we will simply wait to see the mood of the American public.  I suspect the outcome is going to be challenging.


Marilyn said...

What I don't understand about this political game we play now is how fast people forget, and how easy it is for them to jump ship. But when someone in office is outright cutting our throats and ignoring the countries needs, people seem to have a blind eye and this just amazes me. I have no confidence in government now, it's too unproductive due to POWER & GREED, two evils that do not mix with INTEGRITY & HONESTY.
I personally think that our President is doing a great job with his hands tied behind his back. Just think how much faster we would go forward if he had the support of both parties and all Americans. I think it used to be, you had a choice, but whoever was elected you supported them, respected them as our President. We are playing Russian Roulette and blaming one man.....doesn't make any sense. I call it the "fickle society" and it won't get better until we get involved. Let's huddle together as AMERICANS, and make this country great again!

Anonymous said...

I miss going to the polling place to vote. Actually, I miss working at the polling place. It was very interesting. Some years there would be a line of people out the door, waiting for their turn to vote. Other years there was a lack of interest and the voting was slow. One year a young man came in and passed the news, that the newscasters on the east coast had declared the winner. Even though my choice had won, I felt deflated. I had always enjoyed the excitement of listening to the votes from the different states as the results see sawed back and forth.


Anonymous said...

I really don't see an alternative to government. No matter how disappointed we may be in its current performance, to have a life of any quality requires some political principle of organization.

Unless, of course, one believes in the possibility of a government-free existence. Completely eradicate the government we have now, and I can guarantee that some form of political organization will arise, and it could be a great deal worse.

No, metaphysically, we're stuck I think with trying to bumble our way through this life through some form of government or other. And no government is perfect, and no one is going to perfect her government.

Whatever faults or merits attach to one's government, how it goes is always a matter of more or less, not all or none.

My gut tells me that too great a dissatisfaction with incrementalism, that my position implies, always has blood on it -- well, more blood on it, than the alternative.


Steve Cotton said...

Marilyn -- There is no doubt the public is fickle. And that is fine with me. The more often we change political servants, the less time they will have to get in the way of American society. Politicians are no worse than the rest of us. They have the same virtues and vices. Like anyone, though, when they can stick their hands into other people's pockets, all sorts of mischief ensues.

As for the president, he has brought most of this on himself -- for a lot of reasons, none of which we need to recite here. The biggest one was trusting his fate to the Congressional leadership. He has tried to avoid some of the mistakes of the Carter administration, but that did not quite turn out the way he tought it would.

Mom -- I miss the civic ritual of voting -- even with all of my postmodern tendencies. Showing up with your lunch or dinner, while you were serving on the election board, is one of my fond memories.

Steve Cotton said...

ANM -- Sorry. Your comment came in while I was typing.

As you know (and as we will undoubtedly discuss at lunch today), I am not an anarchist. I am very happy with our Constituion. I think of it the same way as Ghandi when asked what he thought of Western Civilization: "I think it would be a good idea." I just wish we would pay more attention to what our Constitution allows and restricts. The fact that the president is now viewed as the chairman of the local school board is a perfect example of why some people are a bit concerned that we may have lost our political way.

I have no doubt that Mexico has had an effect on me. Mexico has a great political system -- where the central government pretends to be activist and progressive, and the people pretend to comply.

Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

I love government- I think that there are a lot of people trying to do good but everyone has a different idea of what needs to be done first and foremost- and then those people are mixed in with a lot of people who do not care so a lot of things get screwed up. But I do have 1 very strong belief-

No matter who who vote for- you should vote- it is the only thing that can actually change an out come. I always tell people- you cannot complain about the president if you did not vote- YOu could have had your say but chose not to- you do not get to comment on it after the fact. I am glad you voted.

Steve Cotton said...

Rosas Clan -- And I always do. I even make choices.