Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Election time!

Everybody loves election time!

Although I confess that my sample group is skewed, as the majority of the people I hang out with on a day-to-day basis are from the Political Science and other politically-oriented departments at my university (politically affiliated boys totally put out). We must also keep in mind the number of taxpayers who are unimpressed with another multi-million-dollar election to pay for. We must keep in mind the members of the electorate for whom the last general election was practically last week, not to mention those in Ontario who are scratching their heads and thinking "Didn't we just have an election last October?"

There is a disturbing number of registered voters who engage in a number of disturbing practises, including but not limited to:
  • Voting for a party because it's the same party for which they've voted for the last 65 years
  • Voting for a party because it's the party their parents vote for
  • Choosing a party to vote for using methods not much more sophisticated than closing their eyes, waving their arms around, and placing an X wherever the pencil lands
  • Ignoring the 18,000 sets of verbal instructions and diagrams, and marking the ballot improperly
  • Not voting
But sometimes I wonder if we can really blame them (for all but marking the ballot improperly). In a perfect world, everyone would act like they belonged to the Political Science department, and general elections would be as exciting as the Olympics, the playoffs, and New Year's Eve put together. On election night, everyone would get together at the bar or their friend's place to gather round the TV and trade projections as to the outcomes while the CBC played the Election Night in Canada theme (too soon?). Sadly, this is not the case. Much to my bafflement, people don't discuss politics around the dinner table or water cooler with the same frequency that we do in the campus bar. Or at least, not analytically. For many, many people, general elections are just another nuisance that hog media attention for a month and add another errand to the to-do list on E-day. And let's be honest: your vote, all by its lonesome self, doesn't actually count. But, like the 7 cents of change you drop in the Tim Horton's charity box, it's part of a greater whole.

So, putting all that depressing cynicism behind us, let's discuss the exciting parts of the general election!

Campaigning is fun, and not just for the free food. Interesting people campaign. If someone is campaigning, or even just showing up at a rally or debate, it is indicative of the fact that they care. How much is open to debate, but at least enough to drag themselves on down. Youth events have the palpable taste of youthful enthusiasm, making them feel like a smarter, cooler frosh week where you don't have to hide your alcohol. The conversations might not be objective, but with a little prompting, they can certainly be analytical. Best of all, you don't need to prove your party allegiance in order to go campaigning, which means that theoretically you can campaign for as many parties as you like. Be careful though, lest you be accused of being an ideology whore.

Speculation is fun. The conversations at the campus pub get more heated and urgent. And you learn things, sometimes more than you did in the lecture you just left. For example, last provincial election, I learned that there are blue Tories under the age of twenty-five.

Attack ads are fun. So far, my favourite is the wickedly clever DionBook and Excuse Generator from the Conservatives' notaleader.ca. During the 2004 provincial election, the Star ran a "create-your-own-attack-ad" Madlib, because they were just so darned easy to satirize. I can't find it anymore, so maybe I'll make one of my own. Keep reading!

Working as a poll official is fun. There are the obvious perks (money, a power trip when you get to count up the ballots, prestige and respect in the form of a big yellow sticker, all the free pens you can steal), but the sense of excitement and satisfaction gained from knowing you helped to uphold democracy is, well . . . almost as cool as the free pens.

There is no doubt going to be much more about the election over the next month. Keep reading for dissertations on Harper's soulless stare, Dion's wicked English, Layton's critical chops, why Elizabeth May can't (but should be able to) catch a break, and Gilles Duceppe's beautiful blue eyes - plus why opinion polls are important, why I withdrew my offer to run for the Greens in Durham, and why you should talk to your parents about how they'll be voting before somebody else does.

1 comment:

Jerad said...

You almost ran for the Greens in Durham? Do tell.