I live in the 24th Congressional District of New York State. For over 20 years we were represented by Sherwood Boehlert, a moderate Republican (a real moderate, that is). Congressman Boehlert decided to retire this year and we now have what is considered to be one of the hottest races in the country; the Republicans trying to keep the seat with Ray Meier, a NY state senator and in my opinion no way comparable to to Boehlert, and the Democrats trying to tip the balance in their favor with Oneida County DA Michael Arcuri.
I have mentioned elsewhere that I feel Mr. Meier is a poor choice, particularly for those interested in progressive politics and who cherish Enlightenment ideals. Whatever your stand, one goal of the party planners has always been to “get out the vote”. Well, your side’s vote anyway, perhaps while suppressing theirs. I am one of those people who believe that if you don’t vote or participate in the process, you’ve got no right to bitch when the excrement hits the rapidly rotating blades. I saw something today though that has made me begin to doubt this. I am coming to the conclusion that some people should simply stay home and not vote.
A local television station teamed up with a student group out of Syracuse University to do some “man in the street” reporting regarding the 24th Congressional District race. In this video, they interviewed a bunch of people in Auburn, NY. (Auburn is just west of Syracuse. Syracuse itself is not part of the 24th which was gerrymandered in such a way as to look like a crumpled “j”, circling underneath and around the city). Without a doubt, everyone had an opinion on the Iraq war, education, taxes, and so forth, but the striking thing is that of five people, only one could identify Arcuri and Meier from photographs. In spite of this, everyone indicated that they planned to vote on election day.
Is this good? I don’t think so. I think it’s a misplaced sense of civic pride or duty. Consider: If someone can’t even recognize the candidates three weeks before the election, is it fair to assume that they’ll do a credible job of researching the issues and candidates’ positions before stepping into the voting booth in the remaining 20-odd days? And if they haven’t, then on what basis are they casting their votes?