Last Friday afternoon, I stopped by the early voting location in my precinct after picking up my children from school. It allowed me to perform an act of civic engagement, regardless as to how uninformed I might be on the candidates beyond those running for mayor and my immediate advisory neighborhood commission. I went to the polling station (reminding me that I hadn’t gottent o the gym that week), said hi to neighbors, and cast my vote for an election that was nearly fait accompli.
My town votes almost 90% Democrat, which means the primary usually decides the races. It’s a mid-term election cycle, which I’m certain most people are tired of hearing about. Voter turnout has been dropping for year (57.5% in 2012, down from 62.3% in 2008) and mid-term elections traditionally have worse turnout. I was a bit salty with President Obama’s statement about getting cousin Pookie out to vote. It’s the tone that he occasionally uses toward people of color that borders on condescending, but his point is accurate: don’t let voter apathy decide the election.
Back in the early 90s, John Kennedy, Jr created George Magazine to usher in a new era of political interest and engagement. Esquire’s November issue trumpets that politics still matter. But 20 years of partisan politics, stagnant legislation, and an increasingly dissatisfied populace would seem to put the lie to that idea. The last mid-term was 42% and all indications are this one will be worse. Sounding a bit cynical?
And yet. The two independents actually received double digit percentages in votes for mayor, which means the new mayor will have to negotiate with them. Tight races all over the nation turned on the engagement of those scant voters. Even if you didn’t vote, you probably had an opinion about Kentucky, Louisiana, and Virginia. Maybe politics as lifestyle has taken hold, but it appears to have move us in the wrong direction.