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Hell is: Democracy

by poemless Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:12:05 PM EST

A Special "Election 08" Edition of Odds & Ends

In which I take an inventory of various intolerably irritating goings on in the universe of American electoral politics circa October 30, 2008.

You:  "Oh, dear Lord in Heaven, even though you do not exist, could you invent yourself into existence and stop this diary?  I'm begging you.  I cannot possibly take one more diary about the Presidential Election in the United States!  I've read it all.  I've seen it all.  I've had gaping holes sered into my retinas from the orange rays emanating from my computer.  Make it stop!  ...  Besides, as a European, I have magical powers that allow me to see into the future and know that whatever the outcome of this election, America is going to continue to suck something fierce before it eventually collapses into a steaming mess on the floor of history, so why should I even care?"

Me:  "No reason."  

This is not a rant about voter fraud, media bias, uninformed citizenry, candidates who appear to have been snagged from the set of Deliverance or the absence of procedural mechanisms to prevent someone just snagged from the set of Deliverance from becoming the most powerful person on Earth and then screwing up everything on Earth.  That is the story line of Democracy! The Made for TV Movie.  You've already seen it.  It's a ratings hit, and I am looking to cash in on it by producing "The Making of Democracy!: the untold story."  Or, "Things that make me seriously question if the sublime is not an implicitly fascist concept."

(Before I start dishing the dirt, a caveat is in order: I am posting this on behalf of a person who shall remain unnamed, a minor demon in fact, not even an actual person.  I myself would never criticize the democratic process, especially in the days before The Most Import Election of Our LifetimesTM, especially while representing campaigns.  You may think you know the candidates and campaigns referred to in this diary, you may have preconceived ideas about the narrator of this post.  Whoever you think I am or represent, the only thing you should be perfectly certain of is that you are perfectly mistaken!)  


A HARDLY COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF GRIEVANCES  

"AESTHETICS"

"Question. Universal healthcare, does that include vision care?  We're all gonna be blind by Election Day."

Maybe if you are working at Obama HQ you have some swank surroundings.  I don't actually know, really, but if you have an endless supply of cash, hey, why not?  Maybe Obama staffers have Eames Lounge Chairs and are even getting complimentary massages every 3 hours on the dot.  Who knows?  

Mostly, though, if you are working on another campaign at the moment, the office is probably located in a strip mall.  Unless your area is too rural for strip malls, and then you're working out of some storefront which used to sell insurance, or is too urban for strip malls, and then you're working in an office that bears a curious resemblance to The Office office.  Wherever your campaign HQ, with little exception, the interior design serves one purpose only, to make you think, "why... yes, I WOULD rather be out canvassing, yes, anywhere but here, I beg you."

Strip mall offices are like garages stripped bare and then crammed with folding tables and chairs and computers and a large ugly couch or two.  Right now everything is a mess.  There are pizza boxes under the yard signs and t-shirts on the yard signs and coffee on the t-shirts.  And paper.  Paper everywhere.  Being 2008, approx. 8 years after we were supposed to get flying cars, one would expect campaigns, especially those run by netrootsy folks, to be on the cutting edge of technology and greener than an algae farm in May.  One would be guilty of acute optimism.  Walk sheets, position papers, tally sheets, precinct maps, sign-in sheets, "lit," more lit, donation envelopes, posters, bumper stickers, direct mail, schedules, just stuff, everywhere...  

Sure - your candidate recycles.  But right now the place looks like your undergraduate dorm room the night before 2 papers and a final exam ... only if your room were in a characterless strip mall and you were not allowed to hang posters of Karl Marx and strew pot paraphernalia everywhere.  

I would like to say, "It is ugly, this office." Except, when I think of "ugly" I think of a certain lime green and brown polyester shirt with a psychedelic print, or those pug dogs.  Or racism.  

I would like to say "It is depressing, this office."  Except, when I get there, I am yanked out of my depression by the intoxicating vibe of politics.  I am going to change the world!  Even if I have to do it from this dank nasty hole!

"No, poemless!  You are missing the bigger picture!  Democracy is beautiful!  Why don't you try some abstract thinking and stop complaining about this office decor!"   It is true.  The idea is, in fact, so attractive, it makes my knees weak.   And you didn't mention it, but the candidate for whom I am volunteering is soooo handsome.  But I am talking about the campaign HQ, ok?  Freaking poster child for the tyranny of aesthetic mediocrity.  They all are.  And cold.  It's cold in there.  Don't those god-awful overhead florescent lights emit any heat?  And why can't you hang a proper picture?  Afraid you will lose the highly coveted anti-Vermeer vote?

"FOOD"

One-stop shopping for all your meals!

When you were a little kid, if someone had told you that you could eat sugary doughnuts and pepperoni pizza all the time, as much as you wanted, you would not even have to eat anything else - you'd have gone berserk with kiddie glee.  You might have even peed in your kiddie pants.  Well, guess what!  Now you can!  

Just join a political campaign!

I like pizza.  I like some doughnuts.  But, I don't really consider them food (unless it is proper pizza, which I am not referring to here).  I remember the man with whom I lived in Moscow bring home cheese puffs like he'd just scored a couple of lobster dinners.  I watched his eyes grow wide, his brows perk up and a huge grin on his face as he munched on his first cheese puff.  "That's not real food," I said.  Oh, that was a treat.  I had a much easier time explaining that actually, democracy and capitalism are in no way symbiotic systems than I did trying to explain that in America, we have such fat wallets and guts that we often eat stuff that isn't even food because it tastes good, even though, actually, it kind of tastes disgusting.  Why do we eat this stuff?  Because we can.  You can't stop us.  We're the greatest country on earth - in more ways than one.  Munch munch munch...

In other, loser, undemocratic countries, people who are strapped for cash and have a lot of mouths to feed make oatmeal (you call it "pooridge," in case there were any confusion about the socio-economic status of those eating it).  Oatmeal is very cheap and very good for you.  You can put all kinds of tasty toppings on it too.  I like cinnamon and butter, or some blackberry jam.  Some people put salt in it, or fresh peaches.  Oatmeal is customizable, even if it smacks of prole cuisine.  It may be the most flexible of all foods.  

In America, however, people who are strapped for cash and have a lot of mouths to feed buy Dunkin Donuts and order greasy pizza.  In a show of solidarity with the working and lower classes, populist candidates and everyone working for them agree to a diet of doughnuts and greasy pizza for the entirety of their campaign.  Of course, you are free to bring your own bananas and granola bars, or go home and eat a salad.  That's your personal time.  But please don't do this while representing the campaign.  And god, no green leafy stuff with 4 syllables!  People will think you are elitist snobs.  They'll start looking around your office for a Vermeer, or fresh cut daisies.  Besides, if you are phone banking, it is much easier to keep a firm grip on your tiny little cell phone for 5 hours if your hands are covered with a layer of donut sugar and spittle.  It creates a rubber-cement type substance, but washes off with soap and water.

Sure - your candidate has a kick-ass health care plan.  But right now sacrifices must be made.  So grab your insulin shots, elastic waistband pants (they really do require you to "dress comfortably"), acne cream and Lipitor and go do your civic duty, people!  

PAIN

I don't know who these angels are.  They're doing good work.  Smiling through the pain...

Every time I open an e-mail from my Republican relatives (I receive one about every other hour these days) I am stricken with an attack of sheer existential agony.  

But I am not talking about that.  

I am talking about "Ow!  Jesus - that !%#$@1 hurt!" and "Oh, this must be how the little matchstick girl felt before she died because I am beginning to make peace with the fact that frostbite is setting in..."  or "OMG, I cannot wait to get home and take 3 Advil, run a hot bath, pour a drink, and die because I know right now not even 3 Advil, a hot bath and a drink or anything short of prescription narcotics will alleviate the cramps in my calves and this headache" and "Look, there are people who have survived torture in Abu Graib, so you can survive this.  This is nothing.  A hangover, not enough sleep, menstrual cramps, insane blood sugar levels from having eating nothing but Dunkin Donuts for the past 12 hours, and 3 hours of constant walking in the blazing heat is NOTHING compared to what those people have gone through.  Think of it as penance.  And know that eventually the day will be over and you can go home and cry.  There, there, now."

Have you ever canvassed?  Do they canvass over there in Europe?  I don't even know...  It would probably be too confusing with all your medieval gridless streets.  Plus, you all say you have democracy, but you have Queens and Parliaments and Prime Ministers and governments that spontaneously dissolve and a Constitution you can't even get passed.  So, I don't know...  

Canvassing.  GOTV.  I used to hate canvassing.  I was terrified.  Think about it: we Americans live in a "Bowling Alone" culture, a "Get offa mah propertay!" culture, an "I don't, like, really like to get involved in other people's business, you know, like, that's their own problem if they die and stuff" culture.  So the very thought of walking up to the home a total stranger who has a bazillion things they would rather being doing than talking to you, knocking on the door and asking the person who opens the door to tell you, a complete stranger, what their core values are and who they will vote for - it makes me physically sick to my stomach.  I am a shy person.  I get stage fright.  I don't even talk to people I take the train with every morning.  When strangers call, I pretend I am not home.  Sometime I even pretend I am not home when people I know call.  So having the tables turned terrifies me.  Doing the repeatedly for 3 hours until every registered voter in a neighborhood has had their door knocked upon - Hell.  Then factor in the elements of the weather and the sheer physical exertion (it is like hiking all day, only instead of fauna and flora, you are surrounded by paved suburbia and people who hate you for bothering them.)    

Sure - I get a high from canvassing, meeting really interesting people, having really strange conversations, feeling fierce and empowered and bold and like I can face anything.  Most masochists get some kind of high from the pain inflicted upon them.  But honestly, I think I'd still get that high if I could be wheeled around a precinct in a little red wagon instead of pounding the sidewalk, or if everyone on my walk-sheet invited me in for cookies and milk instead of slamming the door in my face.

I knocked on the door of a famous reporter.  He couldn't tell me who he was voting for, understandably, but did thank me for getting involved and encouraged me and wished me luck.  

I knocked on the door of a woman who said she'd vote for X if he took her on a date.  She was married.

I knocked on a door covered with live spiders.

I knocked on the Home Alone door, or 3 homes that look just like the Home Alone house.  Had to be one of them.

I knocked on the door of a woman who just lost her husband, who wasn't interested in politics, but needed someone to talk to, and in the end, turned out to be interested in politics after all.

I knocked on the door of a Russian Jew who wanted to know where he could register to vote.

I knocked on the door of someone who was clearly hiding from someone who wasn't me.

I knocked on the door of an 82 yr old woman who had voted Republican all her life but planned to vote Democratic this year.

I still hurt.  I'm going to end up ODing on Aleve in the name of Democracy.  Who says you have to join the army in order to die defending your nation?

EARLY VOTING

Al Capone, getting out the vote.

Not long ago, we used to poke fun at our not-quite-so-democratic politics in Chicago by employing the phrase, "Vote early and Vote often!" along with  "I'm taking off the day to GOTV - I've been assigned to the Graceland Cemetery precinct!"  The whole idea was the early voting was sketchy.  You know.  Corrupt.  Wrong.  Stuff of flappers and gangsters and machine pols and patronage.  We don't mind it.  So long as it is contained within Cook County.  But we warn you, Don't try this at home kids.  Not unless you are being supervised by an experienced professional, like Vladimir V. Putin or Richard M. Daley.

Americans have found ourselves faced with the realization that many people don't have the ability to vote on Election Day because they have to work, or can't stand in line with babies for three hours, or maybe it is just not convenient for our convenience-obsessed citizens who have had it rammed into their psyches that anything annoying should be opposed on the grounds that annoyances undermine our God-given right to not be annoyed.  Or maybe we all just subconsciously associate long lines with the Great Depression and Communist Russia, so we avoid them, knowing there can be no happiness at the other end.  Anyway, everyone decided people needed a better way to ensure that everyone could vote.  Because everyone needs to vote.  Because otherwise you get George W. Freaking Bush.  It took us a few centuries, but we're starting to realize that voter disenfranchisement has real-life consequences, and that maybe if we let the blacks and the poor vote, the right guy will win this time.

So, having identified a problem, we needed a solution.  Did we make Election Day a holiday?  Like Columbus Day?   Or Presidents' Day?  Or the 4th of July?  Or the day after Thanksgiving Day?

No.

They invented "early voting."  Well, they didn't invent it - we did.  They just legalized it.  Now you can vote for President weeks before he or she is done campaigning.  Now you can stand in long lines with your kids when you should be at work on your choice of several days before the election.  Ok, fine.  Not my ideal solution, but it's better than nothing, even if it is better on a very disturbing level.  If it gets more people to vote - good.  Fine. But did they stop there?

No.

Now one is explicitly, repeatedly, told NOT to vote on Election Day!!!  Can you imagine?  We are told there is no excuse to wait that long.  Anyone who votes on the actual date set aside in our Constitution for voting is clearly a procrastinator and a loser who is maybe one rung above those idiots who took out adjustable rate mortgages on the ladder of people who will be blamed for everything when it goes wrong.  Because if you are voting on Election Day, it means your are standing in line doing your civic duty and making your voice heard instead of phone banking and flyering and poll-watching for the candidate who is going to save the world but needs every little vote to do it.  

Of course, if you wait until 6pm Nov. 4th to vote for the candidate who is going to save the world, just barely making to the polling place before they lock the doors because you've made no effort to locate your polling place until 6pm on Election Day, you are a hero!  Your vote might have made the difference!  You personally made all that phone banking and flyering and poll-watching worth it and saved the civilized world!  But if you woke up like a normal person at 7am, went to vote, and then spent the day phone banking and flyering and poll-watching, you will be responsible for any loss.  You just hope your candidate doesn't embrace Capone's methods of revenge as eagerly as he or she embraces Capone's voting philosophy.  

Sure - your candidate would never do anything to break the law.  Of course.  But right now if you are planning to vote on Election Day like a normal person, you may want to Google "Witness Protection Program" after you are done looking up your polling place.

~~~~~~~~~~~

You:  "Ok.  So let me get this straight.  Democracy is ugly, depressing, unhealthy, excruciating, unfair, illogical and thankless and provides no guarantee that someone of the caliber of George W. Bush or Sarah Palin will be kept out of the White House.  

Why?  Why are you doing this?  Mental illness?  Desperate for social contact?  Sisyphean masochism?  Stupid American who can't see how you're being a tool?"

Me:  "Well, it certainly is hell.  And insane.  And maybe even an epic squandering of time, energy and money.  But I've found, as I look back through my life, and through the annals of human history, the most consequential, worthwhile, satisfying and generally most excellently fabulous periods have been a bit gory and mad and excessive.  And hard.  

That, and I have nothing better to do at the moment than try to change the world."

:)

Ok, mes amis, thanks for reading and have a lovely weekend while we Americans are out schlepping across the swing states.

Wish us luck!

Display:
I love campaign season.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:46:13 PM EST
Little known fact: it is always campaign season.  Well, I suspect, assuming we don't re-live 2000 this year, people will take off Nov. 5-Jan. 1.  Other than that, it is always campaign season.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:45:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald. Jane on Firedoglake this morning announced that their - and others' - project to push Democratic Party candidates toward progressive policies is preparing for action as soon as the election dust settles. You might be interested?

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 11:01:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1.  We have to get them elected first.  Don't put the cart before the horse.

  2.  I think a lot of people here already know this, so I didn't want to bore them mindless with background stuff, but I am already pretty seriously active in politics year round.  I got involved in the Dean campaign, yadda yadda yadda...  Now I'm part of a local Democracy For America organization which is (by no fault of mine) highly organized and active, at all levels of electoral politics.  We recruit, vet, train, endorse, adopt "socially progressive, fiscally responsible, ethically ... ethical" candidates, some of our members even run for office themselves, which is the case in the campaign I am currently working on.  Most of the campaigns we work on are local - everything from Metropolitan Water Reclamation Commissioner to Congress-critter.  The fact is, if these people win and suddenly become abhorrent, we wont work to re-elect them, and they know it.  We don't spend a lot of time on races that don't need our help (and hence would not be very accountable to us), with the exception of the Presidential elections.  And this is something most of us are working on independently.

I have no idea what Hamsher's group is going to do.  Obama has a notorious reputation of using grassroots progressives to get elected and then kicking them to the curb once he no longer needs them.  I probably should not be saying that right now - but it is a fact.  And from what I can tell, he is not running as a progressive, but a populist.  People should not be supporting Obama because they believe he is some progressive champion, or expect him to magically become one once he is elected.  Not going to happen, people.  I am ok with that.  After 8 years of Bush and the Christian Right, I am ok with a mainstream Dem leader who is not always going to go as far as I'd like him to.   In fact, after eight years of policies guided by a fringe ideological minority, I am down with some unsexy pragmatism.  I think we have some real problems that need addressed before we can start getting huffy.  

Anyway, I do most of my work at the local level.  I support these online initiatives, but feel like I can have a greater impact doing what I do now.  It's also infinitely more rewarding than the MoveOn genre of politics.  

3.  This diary was supposed to be about the experience of working on a campaign, NOT about bloggers and youtube and netroots and such.  I'm more interested in that, and I thought it would be interesting to the reader here - because I don't even know if you have anything comparable in Europe.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 12:47:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think there is anything comparable here in Switzerland. Before important votes or elections some parties have stands on the village square where the discuss with passer byes. We get the informations send home.

Also there is no voter registration, or the ability to be purged from a list and not be allowed to vote. When moving to a new place you have to register at the new community and then, if you are a Swiss citizen, you get automatically the ballots and the other stuff for elections send home. Then either you mail it back or bring it back at the actuall voting weekend, the place is usually at one of the nearest school houses.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:07:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think there is anything comparable here in Switzerland. Before important votes or elections some parties have stands on the village square where the discuss with passer byes.

Oh they used to do that here.  In the 19th Century.  LOL.  Sorry.  Teasing.  But "village square"?  Anyway, you've all seen Obama and McCain going around giving their stump speeches at what I guess are our versions of village squares: parks, gyms, etc.

Also there is no voter registration, or the ability to be purged from a list and not be allowed to vote. When moving to a new place you have to register at the new community and then, if you are a Swiss citizen, you get automatically the ballots and the other stuff for elections send home.

I don't understand, there is no voter registration, but you register in your community?  Register what?  Where?  This either sounds like the same as voter registration, or very Big Brother.  

We also have absentee voting, but I personally don't trust the postal service.  Plus, you have no way of knowing if your vote was counted.  When you go to the polls, you watch your ballot scanned, and get a receipt.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:26:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's normal in much of Europe to be required to register your address with the government when you move.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:29:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:30:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No idea. It was strange to me when I had to do it in Germany.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:31:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the worst things about moving around here, is that you have to go through the tedious chore of contacting every entity under the sun to change your address: post-office, board of elections (though you can now update your voter registration when you change your address with the P.O.), phone company(s), utilities, employer, bank, etc etc.  If "registering with the govt." could simultaneously change your address with all these entities, I might be able to get behind that level of fascism. :)

But all of these entities, it is obviously why they need to know your address - so you can get your mail, have electricity, etc.  And registering to vote is I guess de facto registering with the government, but it is not required.  If you want to work a decent job, you are required to fill out tax forms, so again, the gov't knows where you live.  Are they just streamlining things?  Can they say "No.  You can't live here."?


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:46:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
poemless:
Can they say "No.  You can't live here."?

No, not if you are a Swiss citizen or have B permit (sort of a green card).

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:52:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, not if you are a Swiss citizen or have B permit (sort of a green card).

So your answer really is "Yes."  :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:05:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you are a asylum seeker you can not move freely at first, only after you get a special permission, later you can get the B permission. But otherwise it is no.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:12:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is for the irs, social security, so the community know how many people,children there are to plan for kindergardens, schoolclass size etc. And it also serves as sort of a voters list. But I to not have to go and register to vote or declare myself democrat or republican or independent or what ever. You never have to wonder if you can vote or not.

I used to see it as big brother too, but after what happened during the last two US elections i do not consider it so bad anymore. I mean the US has become a big brother state without any central citizen registration.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:37:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But I to not have to go and register to vote or declare myself democrat or republican or independent or what ever. You never have to wonder if you can vote or not.

It may vary state by state, but we don't have to declare a party here.  In primaries, you have to pick one at some point, but that is for obvious reasons.

The whole voter purging stuff is very very very very rare, and has much more to do with the equipment or corruption.  Probably because of 2000, you think that is how it is, but for the VAST MAJORITY of Americans, you register, you get a card and a letter telling you where to vote, and you go vote.  Most Americans who have trouble voting are either non-English speaking or new voters unfamiliar with the process.  Florida wasn't stolen because of people being unable to vote, but because of stealing an election.  I don't see how your system prevents that, given that it is even less transparent than ours.  

Really - I think your registering with your government is basically the same thing as registering to vote, the registering is just done differently.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:00:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
poemless:
 I don't see how your system prevents that, given that it is even less transparent than ours.  

How is our system less transparent?

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:04:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From what you have said, it is all done behind the scenes: you register directly with the government, you get a ballot, you mail it in, you get the results.  Don't misunderstand - it sounds incredibly efficient.  I'm jealous.  But I do enjoy that the public here is encouraged to participate at every little step of the process: from registering voters to being election judges, even if it does result in a lot more incompetence and therefore more room for error.  Its probably a different mentality.  I think if we put our government totally in charge of their own elections, we would have even less trust in the system than we have now.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:13:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The citizens are involved in the vote counting and suprevising the vote counting. We have vote-count duty like you have jury duty.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:16:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's awesome.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:23:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not only that, but (in France) everyone can come in and participate in the counting. Except people who are professional prestidigitators. (and that's actual law)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 06:28:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same in Germany. It is all perfectly simple, open and transparent. You receive a notification some weeks before the election day, so you have time to assert your right to vote.

Alas, they introduced machine-voting in some constituencies for no good reason, it appears; there have been no reports of consistent vote-flipping in one direction so far. These days it has been tried before the Federal Constitutional Court. The case centres on the lack of transparency, visibility, participation; it is not without merits nor chances.

by Humbug (mailklammeraffeschultedivisstrackepunktde) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:12:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Keep in mind that the Swiss vote at least four times a year. Direct democracy and all that. So the campaigning is not as hopped up as the US version, but much more low key. In addition to the people in the village squares, there are also public poster boards in strategic locations where parties get allocated space. I don't know by what method, but I would assume based on how many votes they got the last round? Anyway, these are poster boards exclusively used for election purposes, there is never anything else there. The posters are usually for yes/no on various referendum questions, and for persons in the case where there is also elected positions up. The voting booklet sent out includes the text of all the questions, as well as the opinions on the questions of 'all' parties and pressure groups (again, I don't know how these groups are selected).  
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 09:22:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It may vary state by state, but we don't have to declare a party here.  In primaries, you have to pick one at some point, but that is for obvious reasons.

That's because Illinois has open primaries.

for the VAST MAJORITY of Americans, you register, you get a card and a letter telling you where to vote, and you go vote.

Not including in "the vast majority" are the following states where if you haven't declares a party affiliation you don't get to vote in the primary:

States, commonwealths, districts, and territories that have closed primaries[citation needed]:
Arizona
California (Republican closed, Democratic semi-closed)
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida [1]
Kentucky
Maryland
Massachusetts (Semi-closed primary)
Nebraska
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina (Semi-closed primary)
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island (Semi-closed primary)[2]
South Dakota
Utah
West Virginia
Florida wasn't stolen because of people being unable to vote, but because of stealing an election.  I don't see how your system prevents that, given that it is even less transparent than ours.

Care to expand on that?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:06:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry I wasn't clear.  I didn't mean the vast majority didn't have to declare a party, but that they are not purged from a voter list.  And I did say that in all primaries one eventually has to declare a party, even if unofficially, but that is for the primaries, because they need to know what ballot to give you. :)  No one is required to vote in a primary in order to vote in the general election.  Until this year, few people voted in primaries.  Anyway, I think there is a different attitude toward parties in America and Europe, and that's fine.  But we've discussed that many times before.

As for the last part, I say that based on what Fran has told me.  Here, there are private citizens present at every step of the election.

Anyway, my aim is not to say one system is better than another, but to let you know how ours works at the micro level, and maybe why we decided to do it like we do.  It's a DEEPLY FLAWED system we have, but I think for different reasons you think it is.  I think it should be standardized, the same in every state, in every precinct.  And I think it's obviously open to corruption.  But I also think there are really wonderful aspect of it.  

I mean, I did title this diary "Hell is Democracy".

:)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:22:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because they've always done so? It might be because border control is harder (especially with borders in mountains), so they prefer to have weaker border controls, and more controls once already in the country. You are also supposed to register wherever you sleep, but this is done automatically by hotels (and ignored by everybody else).

In Italy (and, I think Switzerland?) the police even visit you apartment, to make sure that it is big enough for the number of people who are supposed to be staying there.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:19:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yikes.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:23:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stems from the pre-revolutionary Polizey-state. Know your subjects. Didn't the French (Fouché ?) introduce concierges to look after the citizens?

For the local administration the register of residents is mainly important because German communes get money per inhabitant. Thus there was recently a place in North-Rhine-Westphalia where one did not de-register the local dead. ;-)
At a time when the crime of procuration had been abolished in Germany I recall seeing a Swiss policeman on TV checking the bedding for proof that it had been warmed by two.

by Humbug (mailklammeraffeschultedivisstrackepunktde) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 06:42:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
German communes get money per inhabitant.
They get money from the Bundesländer instead of setting their own taxes?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:10:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
poemless:
I'm more interested in that, and I thought it would be interesting to the reader here - because I don't even know if you have anything comparable in Europe.

The UK has canvassing - in fact it's often done by candidates rather than their representatives, because most constituencies are US county sized rather than US state sized.

There's no GOTV effort. There's no tradition of town halls.

Public speeches and rallies have all-but died a death too. Sometimes there's A Speech from A Location, but it's impossible to imagine a potential prime minister being interesting enough to fill a stadium. (Unless perhaps they were fascists and trying to go Nuremberg.)

There's a lot of TV punditry and idle chatter, and TV interviews are the main shop window.

Most party offices have only a handful of people working in them, even at election time. Not that this matters, because although there are nominal candidate selection committees, outsiders are regularly parachuted in from head office.

None of this encourages direct participation. But I realised recently that this was a proverbial feature and not considered a bug. In both of the main parties, opportunities for getting involved have been deliberately narrowed and centralised over the last couple of decades. It's hard not to feel the Lib Dem leadership would like to go the same way.

The only thing resembling populist politics is coming from the far right here.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 05:50:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Politicians generally don't canvass much themselves at the higher levels.  Too much potential for nasty voters on the opposite side saying nasty, and turning it into a big press moment.  Obama does canvassing himself now and then, but that's all I've seen, and it's more of a photo-op thing than anything, I'm guessing.

Plus, he can generally get tens of thousands of people to show up to rallies, so canvassing would be an inefficient use of his time.  It might be good for McCain, since no one shows up to his events.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:46:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The candidate I am working for has personal knocked on like 90% of the doors in his district!  He's a bit of an over achiever...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 11:19:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True, but you're better at this stuff than I am.  I'm awful at talking to people.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:28:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sometimes a diary is so well written, there is no need to comment.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:49:27 PM EST
What. Ever.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 11:01:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the mean while, you might get a kick out of this:
A survey conducted by Radio Netherlands earlier this week showed that 85% of Dutch expatriates and emigrants living in the US want Obama to win the race for the White House.

Three members of the young Socialists, in New York to campaign for Obama, told De Pers they describe themselves as `social democrats'. ` Socialists are something dirty here,' said Astrid Benschop (18). `Sometimes they even run away, they are so shocked.'


I seem to vaguely remember some prediction of yours along those lines.

JS We Can!, via MattY.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 08:50:10 PM EST
Early voting and GOTV operations on the day of the election are illegal where I live. Canvassing is just not done.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 08:50:49 PM EST
Early voting and GOTV operations on the day of the election are illegal where I live. Canvassing is just not done.

Where do you live?

GOTV operations on the day of the election, I find nothing sketchy about that.  GOTV does not mean campaign electioneering.  We do have regulations on electioneering on Election Day.  But GOTV on election day usually consists of making phone calls to see if people have voted yet, making people aware of their rights, helping them find their polling location, poll watching, making sure people are able to vote.  By Election Day, no one is going to waste their time asking for people's vote.  They are just focused on getting people to the polls and troubleshooting any problems at the polls.

What does this mean, "Canvassing is just not done."?

Why is that?  How do politicians campaign at the local level?  Just media and public appearances?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:59:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I live in France.

Campaigning on election day is strictly forbidden, and that would probably include candidate's campaigners helping people to vote (There was a GOTV in Paris's fifth arrondissement, where the conservative mayor made sure people took the elderly to the polling booth. And regularly help them vote once in the booth. Ahem.)

Making sure people find their polling location - well, registered voters receive an elector's card giving them the adress of there polling location. Since there are at most 1000 voters per polling location, they are usually accessible by foot, and easily accessible - traditionally in the local primary school. Also, since the voting is on a Sunday, calling people to make sure they vote would include waking them up, and would be badly received.

The closest thing is polling place watching - some people have to man the polling places for the day, and oversee the counting in the evening ; anyone can volunteer for those, but party members do so frequently.

French politics are very much short handed. That's why there is no serious canvassing, and hasn't been for quite some time. The last to have done anything looking like it were the communists, and they probably stopped during the 70's. There simply aren't enough motivated party members left to do anything like that.

As for campaigning, it is mostly done through media and public appearances. The "traditional" way of meeting the citizens is at the local farmer's market. Also, the State sends an envelope to each elector before the election, containing each candidate's propaganda.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 11:19:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I was a doe, I canvassed during summers, three summers, two mid-term cycles and one off-season. I was paid by the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, a PAC that wasn't at the time affiliated with a particulary party or candidate. It was good fun in a way. The mid-day ladies who wouldn't register to vote because their husbands weren't home to authorize were scary. But I did get enough invitations to dinner from others to make up for my wage-grade.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 09:17:11 PM EST
People generally are not paid to canvass for a candidate unless they are paid staff who decide to pitch in an canvass one day, or work for one of these groups like Acorn, etc.  Except, I thought they had to be non-partisan and stick to issues or voter registration or something, these PACs.  If you are being paid to work on behalf of a candidate, you are a paid member of a campaign staff, or are jumping through some legal PAC loopholes.  Well, that's how it is today, anyway.

The vast majority of people canvassing are volunteers.  I personally know no one who is paid explicitly to canvass.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:51:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"When I was a doe" was a little over 20 years ago.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:28:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These aren't my pizzas and doughnuts! They belong to the Democrat Party!

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 11:39:51 PM EST
Odds and Ends is back.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 12:32:02 AM EST
Well, this is not a real O&E.  But I felt I needed some indicator that this could be satire, to cover my ass.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 11:02:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]

 

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 11:45:43 AM EST
I take it you haven't gotten the locals who don't want to canvass to cook you food. Quality varies, but it offers a break from the pizza.

If you want some amusement, find some longtime staffers and look at their before pictures from a year ago. Start an office pool on estimating their weight gain.

Those folks in the snow could have been me in December and January in NH. Lately I haven't been doing much canvassing, just cutting turfs to torture the walkers. I'm seeing google maps with little colored dots in my sleep. Really.

by MarekNYC on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 12:40:15 PM EST
I take it you haven't gotten the locals who don't want to canvass to cook you food. Quality varies, but it offers a break from the pizza.

No. :(  Too bad, too, because the office is in a densely Jewish neighborhood.  Now I'm drooling just thinking of the food I'm missing out on.  

Though I will confess, there is a super middle-eastern joint a few blocks away we usually hit on the way home. :)

If you want some amusement, find some longtime staffers and look at their before pictures from a year ago. Start an office pool on estimating their weight gain.

LOL!  You do that too?  We don't have an office pool, but I am keeping track in my head.  I've even noticed it in Obama.

Those folks in the snow could have been me in December and January in NH. Lately I haven't been doing much canvassing, just cutting turfs to torture the walkers. I'm seeing google maps with little colored dots in my sleep. Really.

I've done both, and I think I'd rather be canvassing, so long as the weather is ok.  But yeah.  Walk-sheets are showing up in my dreams...

Thank god it is almost over.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 12:55:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey!  I went to Indiana this weekend and two little old ladies cooked soul food for us!

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 11:18:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't even talk to people I take the train with every morning.
You'd feel right at home in Sweden. People who talk to strangers on the train (or really at all) are considered drunks, addicts, terrorists or Americans. :)

Or maybe we all just subconsciously associate long lines with the Great Depression and Communist Russia, so we avoid them, knowing there can be no happiness at the other end.

That's really funny, I guess it's a cultural thing. Here people are comforted by lines as it somehow tells people they are treated equally. Line cutters are obviously seen as the scum of the earth. If you really want to piss off a Swede, cut the line in front of him. He might not do anything than give his friends an angry look and mumble something, but he'll be pissed alright.

We don't have very much GOTV either. With an election participation of 75-85 % it's not really needed, and quite frankly, do we really want the last 20 % in the talent reserve to actually vote?

One local GOTV tradition, or rather party information thing is that all the parties put little houses on the main square in every town which they man with party members who can talk to voters, and the politicos also get the chance to hang wtih politicos from other parties.

   

This is what th huts look like.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:04:20 PM EST
So - I am trying to understand this - instead of candidates, you just have parties for people to vote for?  

For whatever reason, Americans are keen on "voting for the person, not the party."  Plus, people within the same party often disagree with one another.

Those huts are hoot, though.  Between these and Fran's "village squares", well, it is all very quaint, isn't it?

So...  if you live in a modern city, so they still do this?    

I don't think I'd feel very much at home in Sweden.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:13:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So...  if you live in a modern city, so they still do this?
Yep.

Or well, "modern" is relative. The cathedral next doors is 800 years old and the city itself is 1400 years old (that's not only before christianity in these parts, but before the pagan aesir gods). And "this" city is relative too. The original city is loctad in the northern suburb today, because while it was initially built at the innermost part of a snaky bay of the Baltic sea, the land rose and the city was moved south to the then current seashore about 1000 years ago. Since then the land has risen even further and the bay has turned into a river which empties into a lake which in turns empties into the Baltic about 70 km south of here, in central Stockholm.

So - I am trying to understand this - instead of candidates, you just have parties for people to vote for?

Yes. No. It's complicated.

You vote for a party list on which the local party candidates are pre-ranked by their own party (by means of an internal party election, and lots of foul play). But since about 10-15 years back you can put an X next to a certain candidates name and so move him upwards on the list so that he - if he gets enough votes - can displace a higher ranked candidate.

This is a good reform which sadly hasn't had much result because recent experience have reaffirmed that members of of the Riksdag (our parliament) are just vote button pushers who'll do whatever the party leadership tells them to do. If they refuse and vote against their party (except in unimportant or "moral" issues) they can kiss their party careers and their comfy well payed jobs goodbye. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that we have very many parliamentarians (349) and they are generally very lowly skilled (only 2 are engineers for example). This means very few of them could get jobs that pay as well as their current jobs ($5000 a month) outside of parliament. So they're very careful not to rock the party boat.

The US system have some very important things we could learn from. If you think you have a "unitary executive" you aint seen nothing yet. Our system is in effect (if not in theory) like the Roman crisis system when they elect a dictator on a 6 month mandate, except we do it on a 48 month mandate, and this is especially pronounced when we have a miniority one party (ie soc dem) government.

And we don't have an independent judiciary.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:34:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But well, the thing that shocked me the most when I was in the US during the 2000 election (and I was only 15 at the time) was that not all votes were counted. How are you supposed to do your statistics and accounting if not all the votes are counted?! Here we always count all the votes, no matter if it is bleeding obvious within 5 minutes who'll be the ultimate victor.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:37:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I want to get this out of the way right now.

2000 was not a normal election.  People say 9-11 changed everything, but 2000 may have been just as traumatic.  No American could remember anything like it in their lifetime.  It simply did not happen in America.  It simply could not happen.  The USSC chose the President.  It is my opinion that there is funny business in every election, probably in ever country.  But what happened in 2000 was a bit of an anomaly.  Not because it was unfair, but because of how it was resolved, which has left everyone with the feeling that American democracy is a joke.  But there are elections in this country every year, throughout countless municipalities, counties, states, etc.  And it appears, given the way people are going to the polls like never before, the American people have rethought their opinion that our elections are a joke.  NB:  If Obama loses, it's going to be ugly.  It will def. be another nail in our coffin.  But it is important to remember 2000 in Florida, while it changed the course of world history, was one election, one state, a few counties.

Now, not counting all the votes.

You could be referring to 2 different things.

1.  The way the media does not wait until all the votes are counted before calling a winner, based on statistical probability.

or

2.  The way voting machines discard ballots they consider "invalid."  Some systems are set up so that an "invalid" ballot is caught when the voters scans it, and some people cast their ballot not knowing that their ballot will be considered "invalid."  What constitutes "invalid" varies by machine, and is offensively arbitrary.  But it remains a very small percentage of ballots that are considered "invalid", from what I have seen as a poll watcher.

However, every valid ballot is counted.  Election judges are locked in the polling place when the doors close, and must stay until the votes are counted.  They usually compare the computerized tally to a hand counted sample to make sure there was no hacking or computer errors.  Then the tape listing all the votes and the official tally (looks like a cash register receipt tape roll) is given, by hand to the ... uh, election commission, board of elections, I don't know, whoever runs the elections, and a duplicate is posted publicly.  Or, that's how it works here.  So you don't hear about it, but all the votes are actually counted, in my experience.  Above, I noted that there is no standard way of doing these things, so it could be different elsewhere.  But all votes considered valid are counted at each polling site in my experience.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:08:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The way the media does not wait until all the votes are counted before calling a winner, based on statistical probability.

How about the way candidates concede an election before an official result has been announced and then unconcede it and get berated for unconceding when there is no official result yet?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:23:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want to write a diary about 2000, you are free to.

I am sticking to explaining my experience of how our campaigns work.  That is what my diary is about.  I thought it might be interesting.  Obviously, it is not interesting to you, Migeru.  That's fine - go read something that interests you.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:30:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Am I not free to reply to a comment as I see fit, poemless?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:31:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid brought up 2000, by the way.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:33:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had understood that during the 2004 elections, if in a state a candidate's advance was larger that the number of foreign votes, those foreign votes would not be counted...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 06:39:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what I've heard too. Some of my American friends have decided to fly all the way home to the States to be able to vote, just because they don't trust their votes will be counted if they vote at the US embassy.

Scary.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:12:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Man - I take Election Day off work and C-SPAN wil be broadcasting live from where I work on Election Day!  Grrrrr....

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:42:43 PM EST
Heh.  We'll be spending the day fielding phone calls from people looking for demographic data, even though my division at Census has nothing to do with Decennial.  Some genius in the IT department put the phone number to my office on the Census website, so we get all kinds of calls about everything under the son.

My all-time favorite: A woman from West Virginia called me asking, "Is this the government?"  I had no idea how to respond.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 08:24:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Sun," not "son".  Ugh, very tired.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 08:24:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I really love your prose, poemless.

And I love oatmeal too.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 05:16:05 PM EST
Haven't heard from you in a while, redstar.  How'd the move go?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 08:21:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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