Tuesday is election day. Well, not exactly. As this newspaper reported in September, early voting has turned what used to be election day into the last day of "election month."
Election month is bad, but it is a symptom of a deeper problem that makes the underlying problem worse. As George Orwell said, "A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, but then fail all the more completely because he drinks."
The deeper problem is that we simultaneously expect too much and too little of casting a ballot. See, for instance, actress Lena Dunham's "5 Reasons Why I Vote (and You Should Too)" on
Of all the reasons to vote, using ballots as a balm to cure low self-esteem has to be the most pathetic. But it is reason No. 5 that gets to the heart of the problem. Dunham says that "voting is kind of a gateway drug to 'getting involved.'"
This is a widely held view and, as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no truth to it. But even if voting boosted civic participation, the very idea puts the cart before the horse. It is like saying you should buy a car because that way you might learn to drive or take the test and then study for it. Voting should come at the end of civic engagement, not the beginning.
Of course, it's no wonder that politicians, activists and consultants are constantly shouting, "Fire! Aim! Ready!" They've taken to heart a consumer culture that sees closing the sale as the only important metric. The hosts of shopping network
It's amusing to note that Dunham, who can be seen dancing in her dingy underwear for a Rock the Vote video encouraging young people to vote (and vote liberal) in these midterms, didn't vote in the last midterms. I guess she didn't need the self-esteem boost then.
Both political parties are determined to boost turnout among "low-propensity voters," a euphemism for people who don't care very much about politics. Naturally, this often means they also don't know very much about politics. As a result, the pros must tell them their votes matter more than they do. Saying, for example, "If you don't vote,
Now, if you haven't been paying attention, you might not know that Udall's GOP challenger, Rep.
Now, it's entirely true that the practice of inflating the stakes of an election was old when Periclean Athens was young, but making it so much easier to vote exacerbates the problem, the same way taking to drink makes Orwell's drinker all the more of a failure.
"Vote first, ask questions later" is not a mantra of good citizenship. It's a marketing strategy designed to reward politicians for voters' ignorance.