“If we are the richest country in the world, how come so many of us can barely afford to live here.”
~Kevin Costner as some character in a movie I’ve never seen
I want you to understand something – YOU ARE THE PROBLEM if you don’t vote.
I’m talking to you. Yes. Definitely. You.
Stepping away from all of the campaign noise…the constant bullshit that we hear back and forth like a horrible tennis match that never ends – one must consider what matters to them. The world is not perfect. Many of us will never aspire to be our own childhood best…you might have thought when you were five years old that you were going to be a lawyer, nurse or maybe a police officer. And maybe you thought that was noble, but how many of you said you were going to be a stocker at Wal-Mart or a server at a restaurant or even a store manager at Dollar General? Life doesn’t always turn out how we thought it might or how we’d like it to. Well – the system is rigged against you.
Unfortunately – many of you recognize the system for what it is but when faced with a decision to do something about it…so many elect to jump headfirst into a big bowl of cynicism. Well – there are some very smart people who know just what to say to manipulate your actions.
Goal #1 – get you to vote for “their candidate”. They want your vote and they work very hard to pick out positions that appeal to “swing voters”…maybe latino moms under 30 in Florida or perhaps white “working class” men in Pennsylvania. There is a formula to getting you to do what they want and they’re going to work very hard to get you there.
Goal #2 – if you’re not going to vote for “their candidate” – they’re going to do everything they can to get you not to vote. Negative advertising drives down voter turnout. That’s a fact. The more mud – the fewer people who actually participate. UCLA professor of political science Shanto Iyengar explains:
After the newscasts, the test subjects were asked about the candidates, their feelings about the political process and, finally, about what they recalled from the ads they had seen. While few remembered them clearly, the ads definitely had an impact. In fact, among Iyengar’s most disturbing findings was that negative advertising drives down voter turnout — and that consultants intentionally use ads for that very purpose. “Rather than trying to convince viewers to change their votes, the ads are designed to make supporters of the other candidate reconsider the decision to vote at all,” says Iyengar.
We’re all targeted with special messages…to appeal to built in Pavlovian responses and it happens on both sides. But here’s the thing – I understand the cynicism….but your vote sends a message. There is going to be approximately $1.5 billion spent on PRESIDENTIAL politics in 2012…we’re talking Major League money here. Candidates hire teams of professional consultants who know what they’re doing. But – all of the money won’t really mean that much if you’re engaged…and if you use your sole Wonka Golden ticket. We all have one. And no matter what they tell you….it matters.
And I’ll be honest – I’m angrier at the people who don’t vote than the people who vote “against my interests”; I find their disengagement from Democracy akin to flailing in a morass of apathy. The day you get 10 million people to march on Washington is the day you change the political calculus. Stop watching American Idol and start organizing.
Bush V. Gore says it matters. But you have to understand the psychology of it all. Many people refer to this as voting for the lesser of two evils. I don’t think one of them is evil at all…but if that’s how you view it – that’s fine by me. Voting for the lesser of two evils is necessary because you tell each and every political consultant that in the political calculus they’re using…either to win your vote or to turn you away from voting – there is only ONE option and that’s to win your vote. That’s an important message to send. Change the political calculus – make them win your vote and give up on pushing you out of the broader voter pool.
The American Psychological Association has the analysis:
In the past, campaigns have been wary of deploying negative ads for fear of backlash, says Ridout. However, that may be changing as campaign operatives see evidence that negative ads can break through party affiliations and also sway independent voters. A case in point: Mitt Romney’s February landslide in the Florida Republican primary came on the heels of the “most negative advertising campaign in history,” according to the nonprofit Campaign Media Analysis Group. The week before the primary, 99 percent of Romney’s ads were negative, while 95 percent of Newt Gingrich’s ads were negative.
“I wish candidates wouldn’t use them, but attack ads work perfectly,” says Joel Weinberger, PhD, a psychology professor at Adelphi University. “Democrats know it, Republicans know it, and it’s going to get ugly this year.”
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