October 2, 2004
Lord of the Swings
If you’ve been watching MTV this campaign season, you’re by now used to having your shows abruptly stop while the network cuts to the heartfelt pleadings of celebrities and their ilk that you rock the vote this Election Day. I mean, I’m a fan of democracy or whatever, but I’m not trying to have my “Room Raiders” interrupted to hear Malcolm X’s daughter tell me about my civic duty.
Actually, that’s not my main objection to the MTV vote-mongering. Clearly, someone behind the scenes at MTV desperately wants young people to get out and vote. This has been an MTV hobbyhorse for a few years now, but I don’t ever remember them actually cutting away from shows to send the message.
All of this is an oblique byway to my argument. So MTV’s doing a lot of serious cheerleading for democracy. But they fail to bring their Generation-Q acolytes any understanding of the issues at play in the election. The celebs make vague references to “issues” that concern young voters, but there’s been no substantial programming that says, “Here’s what’s at stake.” I don’t want a horde of little Avril wannabes and Kutcher clones going to the polls without any sense in their heads, voting for the first thing that looks their way.
Over and over again, you hear the suggestion: more voters equals better democracy. Ten million people have signed up to vote in Afghanistan! they cry.
Conveniently brushing past evidence like this:
The tally of registered voters in Afghanistan, over 10.5 million in an overall population of 26 million, is now believed to be significantly inaccurate, the result of widespread multiple registration by voters. As explained here, pronouncements by Afghan and international officials boasting that 40 percent of registered voters are women ignores the likelihood that tens of thousands of women have been registered more than once (some believing their voting card would entitle them to benefits or food rations), and masks regional variation in the figures, including data from some southern provinces showing that less than 10 percent of those registered are women. Several election officials in Kabul acknowledged to Human Rights Watch in late September that the number of Afghans expected to vote on October 9 could range as low as 5 to 7 million.
Which brings me to the swing voters. (I’m sorry, I’m not even trying to make a proper segue.)
I could understand the concept of an undecided voter in October of 2000. Everything was shiny, people had jobs, the government was flush, and it didn’t seem to really matter that much who was presiding over it all. The biggest issue was whether or not we could trust our Fearless Leader not to get nookie in the Oval O. Good times.
But come on now, people. You have a collected 24 years of political history between these two men on which to base your decision. How can anything that happens in the next month possibly affect your vote? November 2nd, as well as being Election Day, will mark the year-and-a-half anniversary of the official end of “major combat operations in Iraq.” If Iraq’s the issue most important to you, you’ve got an endlessly simple question to ask yourself: Do I like the way things have gone in Iraq over the last year-and-a-half, or do I think things could have been better-executed? If health care’s the most important issue, you’ve got two vastly different plans to choose from. Taxes? Take your pick between Taxy McTaxalot and Supply Side International. Abortion? Gay marriage? Over the last 4 and 20 years respectively, Bush and Kerry have made their minds clear on all these matters. Over and over and over again. What on God’s green earth can you people be waiting for???!
The Daily Show, of course, says this much, much better than I ever could.