Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wake Up, Voters!


LEAP DAY, 2012, Boston, MA — Over the weekend, I was in the Northwest corner of Connecticut. Knowing I'd be mingling at a non-political fund raiser in Salisbury, I did bring a prop. I wore my HICKS FOR ELIZABETH button.

Sure, Elizabeth Warren is running for U.S. Senate from MA, not CT. On the other hand, she has been in the news regularly since last summer and on and off for several years. TV, newspaper, radio, cable, internet, Colbert and Stewart, and on and on. You'd really have to be, well, ignorant, not to know of her.

The educated rich folk of Litchfield County did not. A few asked about the button and kind of clicked when I spoke a bit about her. Most who said anything claimed never to have heard of her.

OK, boys and girls, we have elections in MA this year. Next Tuesday is the POTUS/party committee folk primary. There's a Dem convention in June that sets the roster for the September party-based primary. Then, there's the final in November.

Are voters in my Boston and beyond going to show and going to know the candidates and issues?

Granted, I am unabashedly a political critter. I go far beyond looking at flyers I get in the mail or under the door, like:
  • We subscribe to three newspapers 
  • I follow hundreds of pols as FB friend or subscriber
  • I follow many on twitter
  • I attend campaign stops, rallies, debates and other functions
  • I interview candidates on Left Ahead
  • I bring my concerns and the occasional legislation request to City Councilors and MA Reps and Senators
  • Then of course, on election days, I am a poll worker, in recent ones warden at a polling place. 
My shortcoming is TV. I watch next to none, so I miss many campaign ads and only get them on the internet. Likewise, I watch political specials after the fact on the net.

I grew up in a home where my mother absolutely never missed voting. We got multiple newspapers and watched what was then in the days of Cronkite and Mudd real news on TV. We also spoke of the issues and pols at the dinner table and in the living room.

Those many I meet who have political and news umbrellas astonish me. The debates, themes, issues big and small, and most of all assertions drip off their news shields and fall away without ever wetting or whetting them.

Maybe if Elizabeth Warren gets the Dem nomination in June (if she's the only candidate with at least 15% of delegates) or September in the primary, more voters will pay minimal attention. At the very least, they're likely to view and hear repeated ads from both Warren and incumbent Scott Brown sources. Something has to sink in, doesn't it?

I fear it may not.

The big plus is that both huge parties will push their POTUS picks. That won't inform people directly on the Senate candidates. However, having worked polls in previous Presidential-election years, I expect a substantial turnout...by asthenic U.S. standards. Other countries may have 80 percent voting. The last election, which brought Barack Obama into power, was 56.8%, very good by our record.

In Boston and MA elections with 13% or 18% turnouts, I have to keep up the snappy patter and encourage lots of breaks to keep my inspectors and clerk focused and jolly. We carp at the 50-something percent, because it's largely non-stop and lots of self-important voters make it plain they are irritated when they have to wait at all.. Yet, the poll workers are proud at the end of a 15-hour day when we've handled the big one.

Here, Brown just started. I fear he'll rely on high huge chest of money to deliver nasty ads. For many months, Warren and the other Dem candidates have been going everywhere. They do living rooms, debate-like objects in the forum category, rallies, and many stump speeches and standouts.

As always, the states's largest paper, the Globe, was slow to provide real coverage. Likewise, they still are ignoring the two announced candidates for Boston Mayor in the 2013 election. The Globe plays Pulitzer games, concentrating on tiny salacious angles they fancy are exclusives. There must be business sorts at work urging cost/benefit justifications for reportage. Yet coming after the Dem convention, they are likely to provide decent amounts of information, thus shaming other MA media into doing the same.

Still I fear that come September and even November, many registered voters won't bother. Many who do show are likely to say they don't know anything about the candidates below President.

"For crying out loud in a bucket!," as my late mother used to say when she was frustrated with folk. There will be no excuse for ignorance this fall. The reasons may be laziness or lack of civic responsibility, but no excuses are allowed.

As a warden, I may neither give advice on candidates nor scold the dunces. That is very difficult in widely publicized and generally very important elections.

Yet by the time voters are at the check-in table to exercise their rights and perform the rite of democracy, it's really too late. They either know or do not. They either make informed choices or we can hope that the ignorant will offset each other by the law of averages.


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1 comment:

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

My opinion is that our elections are too long. I think in the U.K., they never take longer than 45 days. (I could be mistaken.) If we could trim ours down to a national primary election and general election (combined) of 45 days in the USA, I think that would skim off a lot of the money that buys ads and dominates our politics.

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