Monday, November 01, 2004
There's no question there will be a record turnout tomorrow, just a question of how much of a record.
I believe there is no downside to that, and not only because these new voters tend to support John Kerry.
Elections are not only about the moment, but also about the next election(s). Candidates know who voted last time, and in what numbers, and they are certain to pay more attention to the concerns of people who they know represent a sizable voting bloc. What will happen in this nation if politicians pay attention, not only to big contributors, but to ordinary voters? For sure, the phenomenon of internet fundraising has impacted theories of campaign finance, balancing out -- at least somewhat -- the power of big givers and a great many smaller ones.
And the record number of volunteers in this election suggests that Americans are more engaged, feel less helpless, and are less cynical than they have been in a long time. That may diminish somewhat after tomorrow, but not entirely. Once stirred, that energy will be focused on other parts of the community. Get ready.
George W. Bush and his administration pointedly ignored a huge opportunity to bring America together after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Nearly everyone, including this diehard liberal Democrat, was ready to follow him, and pitch in to make the country safer, and our people more united. I remember thinking at the time about a discussion our editorial board had with Robert Putnam, the author of "Bowling Alone," several years before. Putnam talked about the golden age of civic involvement, in the early part of the 20th century, when organizations like the Y, the Boy and Girl Scouts, Kiwanis, etc. were founded. He spoke about expecting a "click," a moment when Americans would come together again and be willing to sacrifice for their communities and rebuild our social capital.
I thought Sept. 11 would provide that "click." It might have, if Bush had enlisted us in a movement to become independent of foreign oil, or to involve ourselves in endeavors to make our country stronger internally and to unite us. Instead, he told Americans to go shopping, be afraid, and shut up if they didn't agree with him. We also now know that Bush & Co. were determined from the very beginning to use the fear over Sept. 11 to push through the rest of their agenda.
So now I'm thinking that this election might be the "click" Putnam predicted, if we harness the empowering feeling we get when we get out and work for what we believe in.
Some GOTV (Get Out the Vote) tidbits:
I got back from the grocery store yesterday to find, not only the usual letter from my precinct captains, but a note from MoveON telling me to make sure that I vote, but also to tell the MoveON person at the polls when I do, so he or she will not waste time sending somebody out to find me later in the day.
A request went out over a community listserv Friday for 50 volunteers to get on a bus and be driven to north Jersey where they would each get a van to drive back to Philadelphia for use in transporting voters to and from the polls.
In suburban Montgomery County, they're turning away volunteers -- or, rather, sending them to Republican areas. The Election Protection project which, until recently, was pleading for volunteers, now says they don't need any more.
And it's beginning to look as if Republican openness about wanting to suppress voter turnout in minority, urban areas is beginning to backfire. It's losing court cases and it's got Democrats even more energized and determined.
As Bill Clinton likes to put it: If one side wants you to vote and the other side wants to keep you from voting, vote for the side that wants you to vote.
Finally, this email from a volunteer in Florida to Talking Points Memo confirms that something historic is happening.
"At today’s early vote in the College Hill district of East Tampa -- a heavily democratic, 90% African American community — we had 879 voters wait an average of five hours to cast their vote. People were there until four hours after they closed (as long as they’re in line by 5, they can vote).
Here’s what was so moving:
We hardly lost anyone. People stood outside for an hour, in the blazing sun, then inside for another four hours as the line snaked around the library, slowly inching forward. It made Disneyland look like speed-walking. Some waited 6 hours. To cast one vote. And EVERYBODY felt that it was crucial, that their vote was important, and that they were important."
posted by Carol Towarnicky at # 1:36 PM
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