Monday, November 1, 2010

Please vote....but leave me alone!

I love voting.  Sending in my voter registration was the most exciting part of my 18th birthday (I also had two papers due the next day, so that may shed some light on the day...).  I vote whenever I have the chance.  I think it's an important part of being a citizen in a representative democracy. 

However, I hate election season.  Hate, hate, HATE.  The last time I thought an election season was fun was when I was 17 years old and got to go to one of then-Senator Biden's victory speeches at an election party in 2002 because I was "interning" for Senator Carper and was somehow apparently "well-connected."  Since then, I've been consistently irritated by the election season process.  Sure, there are candidates that I've supported and for whom I've handed out stickers at small town parades.  I've even "staffed" out-of-state fundraisers.  I've also dressed up as a certain former candidate for Halloween (hey, the costume was basically a business suit and a bump-it, and I'm a Halloween cheap-skate).  Like I said, I like voting, and I think civic engagement is important.   But I HATE election season.

In case you haven't watched the national news any time in the last few weeks, I currently live in one of the most hotly contested congressional districts in the country.  Basically, that means that for the last several months, I've been bombarded with huge yard signs, nasty commercials, and dozens of robo-calls.  Every single time I've left my apartment in the last four days, I've come home to a Tom Perriello hang tag on my front door.  Every single time the phone rings in my apartment, it's a robo-call (Dear Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Rush Limbaugh....I didn't give you or the organization on behalf of whom you are allegedly calling my number, so that means I really don't want to talk to you.  I hate phone calls so much that I am on the Do Not Call Registry.  Trust me, I will go vote.  But please stop calling.  I don't have an executive assistant to screen my calls.  And you call at ungodly hours of weekend mornings.  Don't take this the wrong way, though.  I wouldn't want to talk to a recording of Bill Clinton at that hour either.).  Every single time I forget that I have a DVR and actually watch part of a commercial break, there's a horrible campaign ad or PAC message that makes me dislike every candidate.  Seriously.  Every time.  There is not ounce of exaggeration in this paragraph. 

I guess propagating nastiness and annoying the voting populace have been key parts of the election process for decades, if not centuries.  And I understand that it's important to educate voters and motivate them to get out to the polls.  But even I - who LOVE voting - am tempted to put my foot down and/or throw my hands up and say, "Why bother?!?!  Just leave me alone already!!!"  [Note: I am still planning to go vote in the morning.  I'm just saying that it's tempting to put on the blinders and say "screw it" instead.] 

I would say that there is a fine line between educating voters and harassing them, between pointing out your opposing candidate's weaknesses and exploiting sentiments and fear....but there isn't really a fine line.  There's a huge freakin' chasm. 

I know I'm not the only person who feels this way.  In fact, I've spoken to numerous folks at both ends of the political spectrum who HATE election season as much as I do, for exactly the same reason.  Maybe someone's done studies that have shown that you really do get more people out to the polls with smear campaigns than with anything positive.  Maybe a big part of the problem is all the non-campaign-funded (i.e., "independent"....hahahahaha) publicity.  I don't really know.  But here's something for the political campaign gurus out there to consider:  I think there are plenty of people out there who, like me, are more likely to vote for your candidate if you actually tell us something about his/her platform and what he/she actually will do if we help elect him/her rather than just slamming your opponent.  If you don't, I think we're all going to be tempted either to stay home on election day or to to walk into a voting booth and vote for whichever third-party candidate hasn't shown up on our TV screens attacking another candidate. 

Just some food for thought.

And, to all my readers: make sure you DO vote tomorrow, no matter your party affiliation!