Election Day 2006

Guest contributer Barbara is a California native and long-time Exponent II reader and contributer. She spent years as a political pollster and is currently employed doing public policy research.

It’s countdown time to one of the biggest nights of the year for me. After months of intense media coverage, weeks of non-stop ads on television, a barrage of political mail, campaign appeals ranging from the inspirational to the ridiculous, charges and countercharges, polls and projections, and enough money expended to fund a small nation for years; it all comes to an end next Tuesday. And you will find me happily camped in front of the TV all evening, with a nearby computer and internet connection, tracking election results as they unfold across the country.

I am a political junkie. I grew up in a politically oriented household, with my mother serving as a local elected official. I worked as a political pollster for years, and have been involved on that basis with campaigns from the national to the local level. I’ve been an officer in two local political groups. I can’t bear to throw away issues of my beloved Los Angeles Times until I’ve digested every section. I subscribe to more news and policy magazines than I could possibly read. My maternal heart glowed with pride when the two of my children who are away at college lamented how they miss the various publications we subscribe to in our household. I’m already looking toward 2008 and read every article I can find on Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton. The internet provides unlimited access to even more information.

Despite my addiction to all this stuff, I am aware that most people are more turned off than turned on by campaigns and elections. Americans as a whole tend to be woefully inattentive to campaigns, and particularly to the actual details of a candidate’s positions. Voter turnout levels keep dropping. And, sadly, women as a group tend to be less involved and interested in politics than are men.

Historically, female voters tend to be most interested in issues such as education, the environment, health care, and abortion. Meanwhile, men tend to zero in on economic issues and foreign policy. Threats to our safety often trump all of these issues, and thus national security (i.e. everything related to terrorism and subsequent U.S. military ventures) has become the key issue for many voters of both genders since 9/11.

So, with the election fast approaching, it’s a good time to ask how readers of the Exponent II blog feel about politics. Do you pay attention to it? Does it seem relevant to your life? Why or why not? What issues catch your attention? How have you been involved in the political process? Do you plan to vote? Does your LDS Church membership have an influence on your level of interest? Why do you think men (on average) are more interested in politics than are women?

Please note: This post is NOT intended to evolve into an argument over specific policy positions, candidates, etc. Instead, let’s explore our interest in the election process and its relevance, or lack thereof, to our lives.

Deborah

Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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  1. Paula says:

    I’m something of a political junkie too. I have already voted, and will be taking the day off work on Tuesday to be a “human billboard” in the early morning, for a local candidate, Francine Busby, who’s running for Congress from the 50th district, for Randy Cunningham’s old seat. After the billboarding, I’ll be visiting polls for several precincts to check if everything seems to be ok, and I’ll be checking to see which of our voters have actually made it out to vote (we know that through party registration, and through phone calls to individual independent voters. For the ones who haven’t voted by late afternoon, I’ll be knocking on their doors, to remind them, and if they’re not home, they get a big flier saying that failing to vote is voting for Bush. I do think that my LDS upbringing has made me somewhat more involved than I would be otherwise. Partly that’s because we were raised to be patriotic, in our little town in Utah, and partly because I got so darn sick of all the conservative politics masquerading as gospel at church. People in my ward were some of Randy Cunningham’s strongest supporters, and I got tired enough of hearing that at church that I started volunteering for Francine even before the Cunningham scandal broke.

  2. Caroline says:

    I too am a political junkie. I listen to NPR for about 5 hours a day and hear lots of interviews of candidates and pollsters.

    Right now my primary concern centers around the environment. I was so compelled by An Inconvenient Truth, and I want more than ever for our gov’t to take more proactive steps towards protecting our environment from global warming. The war is also of great concern to me, but it seems like such a mess right now that I don’t really know what the right course of action there is.

    For the first time in my life, I’ve become politically active this year. Just this evening I made 50 calls to people to try to urge them to get to the polls. It’s pretty cool to feel like I’m doing my part to push for change.

  3. jana says:

    Barbara:
    I just finished the 2nd of my “Call for Change–Get the Vote Out” calling parties. I am trying hard to do what I can to swing this election to my party of choice. I’ve made hundreds of phone calls over the past 2 months to convince Americans that their vote is important. Yet it always amazes me how many women reply with something like: “Oh I’m not sure who I’m voting for yet because my husband will tell me who to vote for.”

    Whoa–to me these calls are worse than those where someone on the other line vehemently supports an opposing candidate or platform! How can they not even care? I don’t understand it. I was making political phone calls in high school–before I was even old enough to vote. I’ve only missed 2 elections since. Voting is so empowering. How could someone take such a gift for granted?

  4. Anonymous says:

    My interest in politics is not at your level, mainly because I find it so difficult to sift through all the hype and find out what is really going on. I worked as a pollster for a number of years too and I think I learned more from the people I talked to- at least on local elections – than from any media source. Over the years I have voted for certain candidates because of their campaign rhetoric only to have them do the exact opposite. Since I am an independent and have voted for candidates from both parties I can testify that they are both guilty of this. As the campaigns have become more and more acrimonious, and sound bites and name calling have taken over as “information” I find it ever more difficult to find out any real information on candidates and what they believe. When I visited London several years ago I was told that they only allow 6 weeks of campaigning before elections and oh how I wish we could import that piece of wisdom. When we are bombarded with campaign rhetoric 3 years prior to the actual election can you blame people for tuning out? Let me be clear, I do my best to be an informed voter and I do vote. I do care about our country and feel strongly on many issues and tho my husband and I often cancel each others votes:) I always vote, even on tiny local elections.

  5. Dan says:

    I am extremely concerned about the push-polling and robo-calls that are being used in this election to distort Democratic candidates’s records. The RNCC (Republican National Congressional Committee) is really going for the gutter, and I wonder why. If their message is a good one, why do they need to employ such dirty tactics? I don’t mean to be picking on the Republican party solely, (Democrats have in the past used push polling), but I do so because of the blatant use to which they use it in this election. The Democrats are taking the high road here, (if that can be said of any election where negative campaigning occurs. Negative campaigning is not bad in and of itself, if used properly—say to highlight factual points about the bad things a candidate has either done or said—but to distort reality and facts as blatantly and horribly as the RNCC has done with its push-polls and robo-calls should disturb everyone who believes in honest elections). I fear this election will not be fair.

    Couple push-polls and robo-calls with the Diebold electronic voting machines that are easily hacked into, and you do have to wonder why Bush and Rove are not worried about the results of this November’s elections.

    I fear for the future of democracy in our country. What I’ve seen these past six years is not going in the right direction.

  6. Nate Oman says:

    By and large, I suspect that political apathy is a good sign. If one looks at heavily politicized societies, they are seldom particularlly healthy politically speaking. Voter turn out was extremely high in Weimar Germany.

    Dan: Do you also worry about the evil geniuses at the RNCC implanting mind-controlling microchips in the heads of snoozing Democrats? It is just the sort of wicked thing that Karl Rove would do, and I swear I read something about it the other day at Daily Kos. You should definitely look into it…

  7. Caroline says:

    Jana,
    As you know, when I was making my “Call for Change” calls, I got a couple of women who likewise said that their husbands figured all that political stuff out and they (the women) just did as they were told. I too was really saddened by these responses.

    In my younger 20’s I was pretty apathetic about voting, feeling like my one little vote wouldn’t do a thing. But ever since I saw “Iron Jawed Angels” the fantastic movie about the enormous sacrifices (beatings, imprisonment, force feedings, even death) suffragists endured in order to allow women to vote, I’ve had a complete turn around. I have vowed to myself to never ever take voting for granted again.

  8. Barbara says:

    My perspective on the political process has become less idealistic and more jaded over the years. What D & C 121 says about the tendency of people to exercise unrighteous dominion is so true. Although I have known some very dedicated and service-minded local elected officials, so many elected officials seem to be more interested in power than in furthering the public good. It is encouraging to hear that many of you are active on the local level. Even if the system as a whole has major problems, when we don’t participate, we are giving up on trying to make a difference.

  9. AmyB says:

    I’m not much of a political junkie. I grew up with a sense of patriotism and duty to my country, and have felt that to be a good, contributing citizen I should vote. I think Mormonism encourages that.

    I’m tired of the sound bytes and negative campaigning. It takes a lot of work to find out what the real platforms and issues are. My automatic reaction is to feel that all politicians are untrustworthy people, although I’m sure there are some that try to govern with integrity.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that the political scene for me is tiring, overhwhelming, and frustrating. Remembering what the suffragists went through so that I now have the right to vote improves my perspective on this somewhat. Thanks for that reminder, Caroline.

  10. Nate Oman says:

    “It takes a lot of work to find out what the real platforms and issues are.”

    One way to get around this problem is simply to vote a straight party ticket. Obviously, party affiliation is a very imperfect signal about individual political beliefs of particular candidates, but it is probably as good a signal as one is likely to find. Furthermore, given the structure of our political institutions, party affiliation probably matters quite a bit more than the individual beliefs of any particular candidate.

  11. Seraphine says:

    My interest in things political goes through cycles. To a large extent, I’m a political junkie–I’ve been reading political blogs and columns and looking a polls for weeks now. But I go through cycles when I am so disgusted by what the government is doing, that I sometimes need to take a break. For example, I was so angry and upset about the build-up to the Iraq war and the subsequent invasion of Iraq, that I stopped paying attention to politics until well into the 2004 primaries.

    So, right now I’m a political junkie, but I may need to take a break again sometime in the near future.

  12. Dan says:

    Nate,

    Dan: Do you also worry about the evil geniuses at the RNCC implanting mind-controlling microchips in the heads of snoozing Democrats?

    Interesting swipe. I’ve actually got evidence of robo-calls and push-polls. In fact, in New Mexico, the RNCC has been caught calling Democrats to direct them to the wrong place to vote.

    As to mind control techniques, well, I wouldn’t put it past Republicans to do something like that to supress Democratic votes

  13. matt thurston says:

    I’m of the same mind as AmyB…

    And yet I realize the importance of this election…

    As such, I’m inclined to seek someone out who is sensible and who has done their homework, like say Caroline, and ask them who or what they are voting for, and then do the likewise.

    So, uh, Caroline… point the way… 🙂

  14. Caroline says:

    Wow, Matt, I feel so empowered right now. 🙂

    I’m actually a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I sort of plan to follow Nate’s suggestion and vote a party ticket.

    I am justifying this party ticket approach by telling myself how vitally important it is that we get a change of leadership, so that a new group of people will have the power to set the agenda. I’m sure some hopeless deadlocks will result, but I can’t help feel that practically anything is better than what we’ve got now.

    Other than that, my only real suggestion is: Vote yes on 87! (The cleaner energy prop)

  15. jana says:

    Here are my choices on the props:
    http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=14231518&postID=116287159490609392

    (If the URL does’t work, just take a look at the most recent post at http://www.pilgrimgirl.blogspot.com)

  16. paula says:

    It’s late for me to make this suggestion now, but file it away for the future. The League of Women Voters has a site, smartvoter.org. The quality varies from state to state (and is nonexistent in some). Candidates can turn in a statement for the site, and also link to their own websites. There are links to news coverage of the races, etc. The propositions are covered there too, and you can find links to various analyses of them. (I basically just vote against anything my local paper endorses– well, I’m kind of kidding, but I really do take their endorsement as a negative.) I get an absentee ballot, and vote with the site up, so that I can read about the judge candidates, and Water Board candidates as I go.

  17. Caroline says:

    AmyB, check out my madwoman blog. I just got a post up there that gives details of what some women sacrificed in order to win for us the right to vote.

    I’m so inspired by these brave suffragists.

  18. AmyB says:

    I’ll definitely check it out Caroline.

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