It used to be that the first Tuesday in November was
Election Month is bad, but it's 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
"You will have the best day just because you voted," she writes. "I wore fishnets and a little black dress to vote, then walked around with a spring in my slinky step. It lasted for days. I can summon it when I'm blue. It's more effective than exercise or ecstasy or cheesecake ..."
Of all the reasons one should 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 writes 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 saying take the test and then study for it later. Voting should come at the end of civic engagement, not at 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 QVC don't care if you actually use the exercise equipment you buy, they just want you to believe that buying a Shake Weight will make you a better person long enough to process your credit card.
It's amusing to note that Dunham, who could also be seen dancing in her dingy underwear for a Rock the Vote video that encouraged young people to vote (and vote liberal) in Tuesday's midterms, never actually voted in the previous midterm elections. At least when
Both political parties were 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. That's why the
If you hadn't been paying attention, you might not have known that the Republican candidate, 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 -- over such a long period -- exacerbates the problem by giving campaigns a whole month for rolling, targeted demagoguery.
"Vote first, ask questions later" is not a mantra of good citizenship. It's a marketing strategy designed to reward politicians for voters' ignorance.