Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I'm a Georgia Voter!

OK, I’m going to rant for a little while here.  It’s my blog, and I’m allowed to vent when I want to.

One of the reasons I was happy to move back home to Georgia is that after two decades, I was, quite simply, tired of Washington. At first, it was a love affair.  I did the all-but-mandatory stint as a Hill intern and would come home and watch C-SPAN into the wee hours of the morning. Walking across the mall would send this little shiver down my spine. Of course I was a West Wing junkie.  But by the time House of Cards premiered last year, that show seemed like a pretty realistic portrayal of how Washington works these days.

It’s primary day in Georgia, and for a politically aware, moderate voter, it was pretty damn depressing. I made it a point to look at sample ballot in advance and do a little research on candidate positions and endorsements to decide who to vote for. In too many cases, it seemed like there wasn’t a whole lot of choice.  And the available choices weren’t that appealing. 

I’ve never stuck with one party or another.  I swing left on some issues, right on others.  I decide which primary to vote in by how the critical races are being decided.  Right now, I live in Cobb County, so a Republican ballot was a no-brainer – there aren’t any Democrats even running for a lot of the offices on the ballot.  But picking someone to represent me in Congress was like being offered a choice between syphilis, gonorrhea or herpes – I don’t want any of them, and is this really what I have to choose from?!?!

But abstinence isn’t an option when it comes to voting for me.  So what’s a girl to do but suck it up and try to pick the one who seemed the LEAST batshit crazy…

It occurred to me that this election season has been remarkably quiet to me.  Other than a few yard signs (not very many), it seemed almost invisible. Yet I read in the AJC that the Senate candidates have already spent $9 million on television ads, with outside interest groups adding even more to the pot. But here’s the thing… I usually watch stuff on Apple TV or Netflix, so I haven’t seen a single candidate’s television ads. When we moved down here in November, we didn’t bother with a land line, so I haven’t gotten any robocalls either. I get my news online, and I try to stick to less obviously biased sites, I haven’t even gotten many popup ads.

I don’t think I’m all that unusual in how I get my news and entertainment. I’m heading into middle age, and I think anyone under age 40 or so is probably even less connected to the mediums used by traditional political advertising.

What I have noticed is that much of the political “news” I see shared via email and facebook comes from sites that might as well be called “libruls-r-stoopid.com” or “die-evil-conservative-nazis.org.”  More and more, our news and information comes to us in an echo chamber where we hear only the perspectives that we THINK we agree with, or via “news” sites that put the political analysis somewhere in between lolcats, celebrity plastic surgery disasters and quizzes about which flavor of bubblegum best represents our inner being.

The scary thing is that our elected officials seem to be getting their information from the same sources too. Democracy is great, but it only works when the people making the policies have genuine and knowledgeable discussions and a willingness to at least hear each others’ points of view. And it only works when the people who elect those policymakers do the same.

Sadly, I don’t have any magic bullets or suggestions, but I’d love some thoughts on how to reach younger, more digital and more compartmentalized voters – and how we can all work to make ourselves more educated and effective participants in this crazy system.

But for now, I think I’m going to fix a drink and go watch a few episodes of President Bartlett and the gang…


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