Which America Will We Be Now?
November 6, 2001 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Which America Will We Be Now? You can help us decide: Vote in your local elections today.
posted by skyboy (21 comments total)
One of the best essays I've read on the most important challenges facing the U.S. post-9.11. If Americans can't be energized to help make democracy work better now, I wonder what it would take.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:29 AM on November 6, 2001

Nothing like a double post, or at least a slightly edited reprint of an article posted earlier, on a slow day.
posted by raysmj at 8:36 AM on November 6, 2001

This was indeed an adaptation of a Moyers speech, posted earlier as raysmj noted.

Nonetheless, still an important essay.

I picked up on this in particular (something not mentioned in the first post):

Consider, for example, what a different country we would be if we had a Citizens Channel with a mandate to cover real social problems, not shark attacks or Gary Condit's love life, while covering up Rupert Murdoch's manipulations of the FCC and CBS's ploy to filch tax breaks for its post-terrorist losses...Such a channel--committed to news for the sake of democracy--might also have told how corporations and their alumni in the Bush Administration have thwarted the development of clean, home-grown energy that would slow global warming and the degradation of our soil, air and water, while reducing our dependence on oligarchs, dictators and theocrats abroad.

Alas, would that it were so. (But highly unlikely, given that Colin Powell's son, Michael, is in charge of the FCC now.)
posted by mapalm at 8:59 AM on November 6, 2001

The central problem with Moyers' arguments is that he truly doesn't understand his opponents' arguments. To cite the heroic efforts of the firemen and policemen as a case for the burgeoning nanny state is absurd. "Limited government? You mean anarchy? I'm against anarchy! I gotta write an important essay!!!" Please.

His complaints about the abuse of government favors by certain groups strikes me as particularly rich. Yes, Mr. Moyers. This is our point exactly. If you expect that government power will be used for wise and benevolent purposes, rather than just being sold to polticially powerful interest groups, I would love for you to show me the door to your happy world of fuzzy bunnies and infinite laughter.

I'm not even going to get into Mr. Moyers' little propaganda organ, the Citizen's Channel. All the news he agrees with, all the time.

The strong case for limited government is that political favor will always be abused, and will seldom go to efficient purposes. We therefore need to decide which functions government can do well, and curtail its Byzantine oversight so that *we*, the ultimate custodians, can understand what the hell it is up to.

None of us are currently capable of doing that. Least of all Mr. Moyers with his ideological blinders.
posted by marknau at 10:38 AM on November 6, 2001

I cry for America
posted by mapalm at 11:46 AM on November 6, 2001

I drove by the voting place this morning. I had just stepped out briefly to grab some breakfast, and take it back home. When I drove by there were a lot more cars there then usual, which usually means it's voting time. It had completely slipped my mind.

There were no "vote for me" signs out in front like there usually are. I didn't see those obnoxious paper signs with wooden spikes stuck into the ground. Just the cars. I almost didn't notice it at all.

There's only one thing on the docket this time around that I know anything about. Dallas Texas attempted to be considered for the 2014 olympics or some such nonsense, and today we're supposed to vote yes or no on whether we want a public outcry of support for this stupid idea, which has already been laid low before we could even vote on it. The olympic committee is looking at Houston instead. So why should I even vote if it's already been decided?

I've said before that this democratic process is an illusion if people don't vote, but I'm having difficulty getting my ass back in the car and out to the voting place. I am not by any stretch of the imagination an informed voter. I only get around to voting for the presidential elections, and after last year's fiasco I told myself to stop bothering about those. Local elections are more important. I know this, but with all the money that flies around, how does my one little voice make a freaking difference? The only real thing is if I don't vote, I don't have the right to bitch about how pathetic the government is. But today is that even true? Participating in something that is so corrupted, is my vote really saying to the civil servants of this country that I don't challenge what they're doing? That I'm okay with the fact they sell our rights and priviledges with pork?

Does my silence not say the same thing? Is voting in this country not an exercise in futility?

Please someone give me a reason to vote. I still have three hours to decide.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:55 AM on November 6, 2001

"'Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm."

Dammit. I just convinced myself. That's what I get for listening to my own crappy mp3s.

Where's my shoes? Wait! Where's my voter card thingy?
posted by ZachsMind at 12:03 PM on November 6, 2001

I can offer a reason to vote.

The sister of a coworker of mine worked in the World Trade Center. However, she was not there at the time of the attack, because she was out voting in the primary (later postponed) which was being held in NYC on Sept. 11.

Voting can save your life.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:05 PM on November 6, 2001

I'd love to see a Citizen's Channel. Public access here in Chicago is a scientology-like scam, lots of classes and lots of money. There are a couple political shows (some that dont require classes), but they're rare and a good portion of public access is dedicated to airing crappily-recorded wedding receptions.

An all poitical channel that is free, has a usable format, doesn't focus on mainstream "news" (think condit) but on local politics with interviews and debates with said local politicians would be an interesting experiment.
posted by skallas at 12:29 PM on November 6, 2001

and a pony.
posted by skallas at 12:29 PM on November 6, 2001

No line. No waiting.

Well that was painless. Giving blood takes longer.

When I put my ballot thingy into the machine, I came up as the fifth person to go there today and vote. It's middle afternoon. Only a few more hours of voting left. The voting place I go to covers three precincts of lower Dallas. Five people? That's all?

Admittedly, my area has a lot of older people who probably opted for early voting. Also, my neighborhood has many hispanic people who have recently come to this country and may not have the right to vote yet. Some may even be "illegal" immigrants. Still, this would only account for some - certainly not a majority. Still more could and should, but opt not to, like I almost did.

The people there told me that many have come there over the course of the day, but most of them were ill-informed as to where the voting for their precinct was being held and had to be redirected. Still, I can't get over such a small number. Five. I'm the fifth person in 3 precincts to vote today. Come to think of it, the other four people were probably the four people who sat at that table, eagerly willing to help me sign in and get my ballot. One of those people was in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank and a breathing aparatus. I am not exaggerating. If anyone had an excuse not to vote, it was her, but there she was not only voting, but helping others vote.

Maybe my little vote's a louder voice than I thought? Either way, it felt good to actually say NO to the Olympics thing, even if the argument is moot anyway. Laura Miller has a lot of animosity toward her, but the city council woman stands her ground, and knows the money that was going to go to making Dallas "Olympicable" would be better suited improving the city for its tenants, not its tourists. And she's performed above and beyond the call of duty in insuring that each vote gets counted fairly and legally, despite the blatant misuse of the system.

I respect and admire that. Thanks, Laura.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:33 PM on November 6, 2001

If you live in Seattle, like me, today you get to decide which subset of generally uninteresting, uninspired and unlikable people you want to see of tv for the next few years. Reading the voters guide was like grading high-school essays. If I'm elected to the school board, one of my goals will be to ensure that children get educated! Pardon me while I write four paragraphs of ad copy without once mentioning what I stand for! I'm both for and against light-rail! Yeech. If I wasn't a perma-mail-in-ballot guy, this is one election I probably would have skipped.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 1:52 PM on November 6, 2001

Zachs: Voting in Congressional elections is quite important too. Might want to look into that. Also, the 2000 election thing doesn't make me want to vote less. Kiss my ass, election stealers, I'm going back out again. Methinks no one was voting the referendum there because it didn't have any relevance or salience. Having such minor things in one election encourages what you call "voter fatigue."

I do, however, assert we don't think voting's such a big deal because our society doesn't make voting sound like it should be the center of anyone's day. The "biggest shopping day of the year," after Thanksgiving (not even true anymore, usually) gets bigger, or at least more energetic, hype. The candidates are boring? Some flash might help, but, hey, people got into business reporting bigtime there for a while. People will listen to Oprah say the most boring crap in the world. Might help if it were more convenient to vote for most people, if there were a holiday.

On the other hand, it might get a little bit more interesting if more more people could spend as much time worrying about voting as finding a flag to put on their SUV, or their computer screen or whatever.
posted by raysmj at 2:17 PM on November 6, 2001

I voted on the way to work this morning. The local library is our voting place. We had 19 state amendments to vote on, nothing else, but it still is important. There are only about a 1000 people who vote there and 15 were there when I got there and more coming in when I left.
posted by bjgeiger at 2:27 PM on November 6, 2001

Congrats, Zachs and others. I agree that the motivation can sometimes be tough to find. I usually early-vote, so I nearly missed this one altogether myself. It took me longer to park than to vote this morning.

I'm repeatedly surprised at how painless it is to catch up with the issues (thanks, League of Women Voters), skim through the alternaweekly for perspective, then check off each box after brief introspection. I always feel better for going through the process, regardless of the final outcome.

(Several of my favorite causes here in Austin have missed by very narrow margins, which leads me to wonder how tough it could be to find 0.6% more souls to vote their conscience. Apathy doesn't sit well with me.)

I agree with raysmj -- especially for those who joined the jingo act of slapping the stars-and-stripes on their auto, but failed to take a few minutes today to contribute to the vote. These people should feel ashamed of their civic double-standard.
posted by skyboy at 2:48 PM on November 6, 2001

I fly a flag every day (and have for years, we have a flagpole in our driveway, blame the retired Marine husband) and I took the time to vote this morning and for the first time in 15 years of voting, I walked out of the booth with not an iota of satisfaction for the task at hand. What did I face this morning?

* A Supreme Court race filled with mudslinging and attack ads
* A Commonwealth Court race with idiot candidates who tried to make political hay from 9/11, one of whom will win on name recognition alone because his father is our celebrity county coroner
* A mayoral race that was decided two years ago thanks to the complete domination of our local political landscape by a single party
* The ridiculous choice to vote for a nameless, faceless, unheard of (see domination point above) challenger candidate or the useless, demagoging, loathsome incumbent -- I went for the challenger with the wager that if he wasn't a criminal or drooling moron, he'd be a better choice.

With all of that, what joy is there to be found in the voting booth? As I stood there, flicking levers, I sighed aloud and thought to myself "Why am I bothering?" I'm still not sure why.

(PS - Why do lists and blockquotes break the formatting, and what's the workaround for that?)
posted by Dreama at 5:26 PM on November 6, 2001

raysmj: "Zachs: Voting in Congressional elections is quite important too. Might want to look into that."

I have looked into that and I respectfully disagree with your opinion. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Martin Frost. These people do not represent me. They represent themselves and the special interest groups that buy their attention. I still don't believe my vote makes a difference, but I guess I still believe in my vote.

Dreama: "Why do lists and blockquotes break the formatting."

MeFi's a perpetual work in progress. I've run into that on more than one occasion. Probably not high priority on Matt's list to fix, but if he and those who help him make this place what it is could figure out how to close accidently opened tags, this should be a cinch for them.

skyboy: "...especially for those who joined the jingo act of slapping the stars-and-stripes on their auto, but failed to take a few minutes today to contribute to the vote. These people should feel ashamed of their civic double-standard."

Yep. Guess voting is one of those things we can do to not feel so helpless about this changing world, perhaps in honor of those whose votes and lives were unceremoniously taken from them. Though they never asked to be on the battlefield, I'd say those who died on September 11th deserve at least half the recognition of an actual American soldier.

But so long as a few thousand bucks here and there speaks louder than a single vote, it still makes me feel helpless.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:17 PM on November 6, 2001

But so long as a few thousand bucks here and there speaks louder than a single vote, it still makes me feel helpless.

What's worse is that a lot of companies and lobbies will give equally to both parties as a way to hedge their bets. I can't decide if that makes voting more or less important.
posted by skallas at 6:50 PM on November 6, 2001

I voted in the primary on September 11. It was on the way to work; after the second plane hit but before either building fell.

It was just a primary, and one of my candidates lost, but it still felt a bit more important that day.

People claim that their vote won't make a difference, don't vote, and then whine about unresponsive government. Preposterous. Staying home from the polls isn't a protest, it's rolling over.
posted by nickmark at 7:49 AM on November 7, 2001

I vote, and then whine about bloated, twisted government. I hate when the rest of the country has elections and we don't. I feel left out. I want to vote everyday on everything.
posted by thirteen at 8:42 AM on November 7, 2001

nickmark: "Staying home from the polls isn't a protest, it's rolling over."

A look at cause & effect.

Vote: whine about it: nothing changes.
Don't vote: whine about it: nothing happens.

Looks to me the people who don't vote get the same effect for less kinetic effort. That's cost effective and more energy efficient. In fact, if a person is successful at not voting and then not whining about it or caring at all, nothing still happens, but the person has used zero effort to get that result, so the truly apathetic American is the most cost-effective.

No wonder the conservatives are in office.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:56 AM on November 7, 2001

« Older How do you spell vindictive?   |   Undoing Babel's Curse? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments