"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Endorsement for the League of Women Voters of Michigan

I don't know how you folks who watch television keep from shooting yourselves during election years. Now, I don't mean fatally shooting yourselves. That would be crazy. I just mean firing a single low-caliber round into your foot to see if you can still feel anything.

I make the above jest after having watched a single evening of regularly scheduled television programming last week. It wasn’t the programs that upset me. What overcame my peace of mind was the cavalcade of angry, spiteful, mildly-factual-at-best political ads (and not just the ones funded by right wing folk).

A bit of background:

For reasons ranging from budget to personal taste, I don't get television in my apartment. I have a TV set. But it isn't hooked up to satellite or cable. And I've never gotten around to updating my antenna to digital. Oh, I get the news. In fact, thanks to NPR and reading newsprint articles, I assert that I am better informed than many TV watchers.

Still, on nights I use the Laundromat, I enjoy catching some TV. It takes me one hour of local and national news plus two game shows to wash, dry, and fold. Lame as that may sound, I’ve found it’s a decent way to spend an evening. I even look forward to it. Last week, however, watching TV at the Laundromat was an ordeal.

During each commercial break, as negative political ads followed one after another, I felt cynicism welling up in me. It couldn’t be helped. Watch that much negativism in super-concentrated doses, and you grow embittered. Viewing ultra-violent films and porn couldn't be any less healthy. At least the makers of that fare admit their work is sensational fiction.

That said, I want to plug a great information source that is free, user-friendly, and extremely helpful to citizens: The League of Women Voters. In the 21st century, the gender-centric title is a bit of a misnomer. This nonpartisan organization seeks to educate all voters. Still, in 1920 when our federal government finally got around to granting women the right to vote, it was the perfect name.

I first picked up a copy of the league’s Voter Guide from a pile of them in my college dorm. Ever since, I’ve regarded it as must-read political literature. The League’s printed Voter Guide, true to its claims, provides a concise nonpartisan primer on candidates for each federal and state category. This includes judges and statewide ballot proposals. Candidates are given three basic questions related to the position they are running for, and the League prints their brief responses. At least, that's what the local league in Michigan does.

The political ads, by fondling base impulses, tried to convince me this election is a do-or-die end game. The League of Women Voters reminded me it’s not. Elections are part of an ongoing process that does not begin or end with any one election cycle. So if you feel discouraged or overwhelmed, know that you are not alone. Also know that, depending on when you read this, you still have a full day or maybe a couple of hours to pick up a Voter Guide, or read up online. Find a local league here. Michigan has one worth bragging about in my opinion. Take it from me, it beats watching the television ads.


  1. Great post Jake! I concur completely. The one thing that completely escapes my capacity to understand is why it not only continues, year after year, but seems to get worse. Every year the consensus, from virtually everyone I know, is that they are sick of it. But apparently no one is listening.

    I'll tell you what, if someone campaigned an honest, forthright, non-mud-slinging campaign, I'd vote for them *regardless* of their political party! And I'll bet many others would too because it would be a better indicator of the candidates character than anything else.

    For the national scene, I recommend this site: http://politifact.com/
    which I have found to be quite good.

    p.s. Jake, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind sending me an email, so I can talk to you via email. I'd like to get together and chat sometime with you. I like your views.
    email: justin (at) justyntime.com (not written as a real email address to prevent unwanted spam).

  2. This is what DVRs are for, so you can record and then fast forward thru all the horrible political ads. I think that's part of why they are getting worse, they are hoping that by causing a "scandal" with their ad which will inevitably get reported by the media it will make viewers stop fast forwarding to see the "scandalous" ad, etc. etc. I cannot wait for tomorrow to be over and to start seeing lovely Christmas commercials ;)

  3. Troublesome confession. I did my laundry again last night. (That's not the confession.) I saw the same anti-candidate ad several times. It took aim at someone I had decided to vote for after reading their answers in the LWV Voter Guide. After the 3rd or 4th time watching that same damn ad, I felt myself considering changing my choice. I didn't. But the repetition of the ad made me wonder a little.
    Thanks for your thoughts Justin and Cass. I envy your DVR option Cass. But like cable/satellite/internet/smart phone, it is a premium expense that not all can afford. Plus, a lot of the negative content you skip on TV still makes it to your mailbox via junk mail.
    I'm looking forward to some Christmas mirth too.