Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Civic duty

"We have to go vote," says my mother. We walk into the fire station and go behind a curtain. I can't see what my mother is doing, but I know that it's very important. I am very young, so it's probably an off-year election.

Two presidential elections happen in which I am vaguely aware of the displeasure of my parents at the outcome.

It's 1992, and I am excited to see what might happen in the country. The war in Iraq has ended and my parents are fired up about the election. People in town display signs promoting various candidates on their lawns, including a small but vocal faction in favor of the independant blowhard candidate with large ears. My dad votes for the large-eared candidate just to make my mom angry. In my head, I call the candidate "Pee rot." The charismatic Democratic governor beats the incumbent and my dad's record of never voting for a winning candidate is upheld.

I am a senior in high school, and thoroughly disgusted that I don't turn 18 until four months after the presidential election. We study civics (called American Problems by my high school) and I have strong personal opinions about various candidates. Then I start college, and campus is brimming with political activity. The charismatic incumbent handily beats the old raisin from Kansas.

The first election in which I can actually vote is an off-year election. It is 1998 and the governorship for California is up for election. I am thoroughly excited to help vote out the incumbent party's incompetant jerk and cast a winning vote for Gray Davis, who at the time was quite well-liked. He is recalled as governor in 2003 and California's second actor/celebrity governor is voted in. My sisters are disgusted.

It is the fall of 2000. I am thoroughly excited to see the outcome of the election, and have great hope that the current vice president will win (though I am personally more interested in ideology and cast my vote for a third-party candidate). I know that my vote won't effect the outcome of the election, as California's electoral votes go to the democratic candidate in a landslide. People in other states misguidedly vote the same way and their votes, in some small part, cost him the election. There are hanging chads and disenfranchisement and discussions of voting machine tampering and fraud. The entire system appears to have broken and the United States becomes a laughingstock. The Supreme Court decides to hand the election to the chimp.

Four years later, I am thoroughly disgusted with the country. Iraq War Two, Patriot Act, a "conservative" president spending and spending resulting in huge debt. The entire election season is filthy and horrible. The democrats fail to come up with a viable candidate, though the election is another squeaker and there are more questions about voting fraud and voting machine tampering, as the company that makes the voting machines in many places is hand-in-hand with the incumbent president. Most people I know hold their nose and vote "not-Chimp" rather than voting for someone they think will be a good president.

I stand in line for four hours after spending all day in the mountains (and before driving to Stepford Springs) in order to vote in a new governor and new senator. I am not pleased with the election problems, but am thoroughly pleased with the results of the election, though I'm kind of bummed for the people in the northern part of the state who continue to be represented by a crazed harridan who cares more about unborn people than people who already exist.

Now this election, today, I am feeling some hope again, a sensation not unlike that of 1992. The incumbent can't run again, and the frontrunners in both parties seem like good candidates for each party, respectively (though I find myself surprised by the results of the campaigns. How did Giuliani have to drop out so early?) For the first time in my life, the two most viable candidates within the Democratic party both represent minorities and would be making history if either were to be elected president. Today is Super Tuesday, and people voting around the country will help decide who continues with their candidacies, and ultimately who we'll be voting for in November. This state is weird in that there is both a caucus and a primary; today is the Caucus and because I am not a registered Democrat (forgot to change my affiliation beforehand) I can't participate. I know who I will vote for in the primary, even if the contest is already decided by then, because I am excited about one candidate and would be not disappointed if the other gets the nomination. Today I feel a little more hope than I have in a long time about the future of our country.

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