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5 February 2008

4:00 on super tuesday and i’ve just come home from voting. our polling place is at the fire station only three or four blocks from my house. i always love going there to vote. they roll up one of the big doors on the front of the station house and voters line up out onto the drive way, chatting casually as they wait their turn to step up to one of the nifty electronic voting machines, scroll their way through the ballot, and, having confirmed their vote on the paper trail, push the bright red “cast vote” button. this time there was no line. i simply signed in and walked straight into a booth to vote. and since i’d done my ballot research beforehand, it was a simple matter of choosing barack obama (non-partisan voters can vote in the democratic primary in california), checking off yes or no for each proposition, and confirming my vote.

i love the feeling i get when i vote. there’s a sense of connectedness at the polling place, of strangers participating in something larger than themselves. and this election has been particularly exciting (even if i’ve also been particularly irritated at how early the campaigning started–i’m all for severely limiting both time and funds a candidate can spend on campaigning). part of me wants to stay tapped into the news all evening so i can follow the results, hoping that obama pulls enough delegates to keep the race competitive. another part of me is too nervous about it to follow and so doesn’t want to check until the results are all in and there’s a clear-cut result. i honestly can’t remember ever feeling this way about a primary election and only once feeling this way about a general election (2004–curses on george w. bush!).

oddly, although i’ve been following the campaign rather avidly and have supported obama from the get-go, i’ve resisted becoming involved. my friend george is a bit disgusted with my refusal to volunteer. and i’ve been a little at a loss as to how to explain my resistance. i spent an evening talking it through with her, but mostly i was making excuses, never quite able to explain more clearly than that it would make me feel yucky to try to campaign on someone’s behalf, no matter how much i supported him/her. that’s not to say i won’t talk about the candidates and the issues–i’ve done plenty of that. but i didn’t feel okay about volunteering.

after receiving three emails from friends imploring me to vote in the last 24 hours, i understand my own reluctance better. one of those emails was a simple plea to vote. no partisan element to it. no endorsement of one candidate over another. just a request that i vote. that didn’t bother me at all. i think everyone should vote. but the other two offered unsolicited advice about their candidate, mitt romney–about his strength of character; about how he has what it takes to save us from the desperate straits in which we find our nation; about doing everything in our power to get him elected. one of these authors managed to write without presuming that all of her email’s recipients would agree that romney is the best candidate. the other one simply assumed that everyone receiving the message would agree that romney (i refuse to refer to him as “mitt”) is the man for the job, and this in spite of the fact that this particular friend knows that i’m liberal and disagree with the kind of conservative politics romney stands for. in spite of this difference in tone, i was pretty disgusted by both emails.

i admit that part of that disgust has to do with my opinion of romney. i think the best single word to describe his character is “smarmy,” rather than “good” or “trustworthy.” and (much more importantly) i not only disagree with most of his approach to policy and governing, i find some of his opinions frightening in the extent to which they disregard what i consider vitally important and basic principles and rights. but my distaste for romney, his persona, and his positions, isn’t the only source of my distaste for these emails. i simply don’t like receiving this kind of unsought petition for my vote–one which is, moreover, premised on fairly empty platitudes about character and inflammatory rhetoric about us needing salvation and romney providing it. it’s precisely this manipulative over-reliance on the rhetoric of ethos or the rhetoric of pathos (which far too often excludes the rhetoric of logos, which should be the most important) that bothers me about campaigning in general. i certainly don’t want to receive it on a personal level. and i don’t ever want to be a purveyor of such campaigning, no matter how much i believe in the candidate or how successful the tactics may seem.

instead, i’ll join in my other friend’s plea: if you haven’t yet and you still have the opportunity, go vote. if you’ve missed your chance today, don’t miss it when the general election rolls around in november. i don’t care who you vote for or what you think of the various candidates running; i just care that you exercise the right so many in this world don’t have.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 February 2008 4:26 pm

    i think we got the same email from a friend involved in the romney campaign. i don’t really appreciate people emailing me in that way. i mean i don’t email them to advocate for anything. so where do they get off? looks like all the emailing didn’t really help.

  2. 7 February 2008 6:35 am

    What gets to me are the people who complain about government (national, state or even their school PTA) yet, they did not take the opportunity/priviledge they had to vote! If someone wants to exercise their right to complain in the future, they ought to have exercised their right to vote! Yes – I voted… slushing through the rain towing my toddler!

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