Really? There’s an election? Gee, I had no idea.
For anyone living under a rock, the United States is approaching the decision that initiates the peaceful transfer of power (or the Quadrennial Showdown between Good and Evil, take your pick). Some elections are more contentious than others; the race for the impending presidential election on November 4, 2008 may be one of the most heated.
MSNBC produced a slideshow of voter portraits. After viewing just a few photos, though, I could accurately guess the voter’s allegiance. For example, every single African American pictured is voting for Barack Obama. The lobbyist in a business suit is supporting John McCain. The hip young people tend to lean Democratic. The older rural white men are all Republicans. (Well, duh.) While I appreciate the diversity of American citizens featured, the voting populace is full of surprises, and I wish the slideshow reflected some of those instead of reinforcing stereotypes according to the conventional wisdom of demographics.
Tangentially, speaking of demographics, do you know about Generation Jones? Born between 1954 and 1965, “Jonesers” occupy the recently acknowledged generation between Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. For decades, Jonesers had been imprecisely lumped in with Baby Boomers, but their life experiences have been very different from those of Boomers. Instead of worrying about getting drafted into the Vietnam War or dancing in mud at Woodstock, Jonesers were listening to punk rock on their way to the unemployment office in the late ’70s and wondering when Ronald Reagan would get around to mentioning AIDS in the ’80s. (The name Generation Jones, according to Wikipedia, “derives from the slang term jonesing, referring to the unrequited cravings felt by this generation of unfulfilled expectations.”) Both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are members of Generation Jones, and the Jonesers bloc comprises a potentially large number of swing voters.
For a look back at past elections, the Museum of the Moving Image presents Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952–2008. Some of the campaign ads in the ’50s up through 1960 were cartoon jingles, but the cartoons stopped in 1964 when the famous “Daisy Girl” ad scared voters into supporting Democratic incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson. Witness the entire range of tactics from blatant fear-mongering to pastoral appeal. Here are some other notable ads:
- Twilight Zonesque
- silly cartoon narrated by Alan “Fred Flintstone” Reed
- laughably ineffective
- vintage high school education film
- ripe for parody
- actor who could inspire
- irrelevant bigot
People from around the world are paying close attention to the U.S. presidential election. In fact, Economist.com put together an interactive Global Electoral College map, which reveals that except for Georgia, Macedonia, and Moldova, the entire world seems to be going blue. (Sadly, much of Africa seems embroiled in massive, intractable problems to participate in this international survey.)
International wonks may appreciate the Angus Reid Global Monitor, which tracks recent and upcoming elections around the world, or the Table of Electoral Systems Worldwide from International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance). In addition, the ACE Project: The Electoral Knowledge Network provides election-related information from the world, including electoral processes, ballot papers, and candidate vetting. You can even take quizzes on topics like vote counting and media and elections.
In the U.S., Project Vote Smart provides citizens with comprehensive information about the electoral process, including voter registration, biographies of elected and appointed officials, records of candidates from each state, and state ballot measures. You may also request the 2008 Voter’s Self Defense Manual. The League of Women Voters offers Vote411.org, which allows you to view your ballot and find your polling location, as well as Smart Voter, which provides the same service in a lower-tech text format. For assistance away from the internet, you can call the nonpartisan Election Protection service toll-free at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).
Whatever you do, make sure to vote. There’s no good reason not to.