We've lived in America for 11 years now, and this is the third presidential election we've witnessed while here. For the first time, just this past month, we have seen ads on the television encouraging people to get registered to vote. Mr.Absinthe commented "its about time".
The lack of interest in voting in the US is at times palpable. USA ranks 139th out of 172 world countries in the percentage of the eligble population who vote (48.3%). In fact, the US has the lowest voting turn out of any first world country. This lack of interest in voting surprised me when I moved here, because in Canada I voted in every single election as soon as I was old enough to vote, and pretty much all of my friends did too. I remember one year in college a big group of us going to the polls, then out to dinner afterwards. And we didn't go in a group because we were going to support en-masse a particular candidate (in fact, we didn't even talk about who we were going to vote for).
I'll admit that I am somewhat off-the-norm in that I exercise my right to vote whenever I can, but my point is that someone like me stands out more in the US than in Canada. The voter turn out in Canada is 68.4%.
Thankfully, news reports indicate that Americans are registering to vote in record numbers this election. Most are young people, which appears to be scaring the hell out of a faction of the established voting population who appear to be quite happy with the status quo of past voter demographics, thank you very much. I've seen some sound bites on the news with people from this faction saying that they are disgusted that young people are registering to vote in such numbers because, apparently, these young people can't possibly make informed voting decisions.
In the Comics section of our Sunday Newspaper, there is a one-panel strip called "Mallard Fillmore". I never find it funny, and barely give it a second glance. However, today I did a double take when I saw it depicted two men digging up artifacts. One says to the other It's a tablet from a forgotten civilization called "America"...whose imminent downfall apparently became obvious when it started to run television commercials...begging its citizens to vote.
Suggesting that widespread voting will be the downfall of a nation is so incredibly, unbelievably f*cked up.
There is a Canadian political comedy show called "This Hour Has 22 Minutes". In 1998, just prior to a Canadian federal election, they produced this music video, featuring music of the Canadian rock band Trooper.
Who stars in the video? Almost every single member of the Canadian Parliament, including the then-Prime-Minister, Jean Chretien. And we are talking about (in many cases) some extremely staid and very uptight people. Indeed, the fact that the most uptight of these people were some of the most exhuberant participants in the video is one of the most fantastic things about it. I realize that Americans watching the clip will recognize few (if any) of the people, but trust me, this video is equivalent to having every single US Senator and Congressperson (and the President) out on the Washington DC mall lip synching to Raise a Little Hell while mugging for the camera and holding signs urging people to vote. There is something about this video that makes me very proud to be a citizen of the country that produced it.
It appears America is changing, and maybe the time will come when we will actually see such a video in America.
In the meantime, raise a little hell, and vote!