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Election Recollection

Election Recollection: Errol Morris’ Op-doc from the NY Times

With tomorrow’s vote looming over us, we decided to direct our readers to Errol Morris’ thoughtful Op-doc video “11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote,” from last week’s New York Times.

Click here for the Video. Morris’ full text appears below.

And to loosely tie this post together with our collection, we’ve thrown in a few pieces of political ephemera from the Democratic National Convention held in Baltimore 100 years ago. To reward our faithful readers we’ve included a very obvious clue for our Movember contest.

Don’t forget to GO OUT AND VOTE!

National Democratic Convention Program, Politcal Ephemera, Series R, Box 3, Maryland Historical Society

Two programs from the Democratic Convention of 1912 in Baltimore. (L) pamphlet produced by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (R) convention booklet featuring Mayor James H. Preston on the cover. Political Ephemera, Series R, Box 3, MdHS

“11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote”  by Errol Morris. NYT, Oct. 30, 2012.

It doesn’t look good for the United States.

We are proud when Iraqis and Libyans dodge bombs to vote in their first free elections in decades, and then, when it’s our chance, we barely exceed their turnout rates. Often, we do worse. Roughly half of us vote, and the other half don’t.

It made me wonder: What’s stopping us? Do we have reasons not to vote? How can we hear so much about the election, and not participate? If hope isn’t doing it, isn’t the fear of the other guy winning enough to brave the roads, the long lines?

In the middle of October, I spoke to more than 50 people between 18 and 40, almost all of whom are planning to go to the polls on Nov. 6. That made them exceptional: only 51 percent of young people voted in 2008. A smaller group is expected this year.

Before asking why they will vote, I asked why most young people won’t. They told me that many of the issues they care about — climate change, civil rights, the war on drugs, immigration, prison reform — are not discussed by Democrats or Republicans. That there is such a gulf between what candidates say they will do, and what they do, that it’s impossible to trust anyone. That apathy is actually supported by the evidence.

Voting is a leap of faith. Calling it a civic duty is not enough. Either you believe that the system is both changeable and worth changing, or you don’t — and most new voters are not convinced.

The arguments against voting have been persuasive to many Americans. But what about the flip side? Why bother? Here I think the arguments are better. War and peace. Equal rights for women and same-sex couples. My personal favorite, the balance of the Supreme Court. The prospect of meeting the love of your life at the polling place. Several people argued that if you don’t vote, you lose your right to complain about the results of an election. But I respectfully disagree. In our society, the right to complain is even more fundamental than the right to vote.

I don’t know what, in the end, forces me to vote. It could be fear; it could be guilt. Although my mother died over 10 years ago, I feel that she is watching me, and I don’t want to disappoint her.

I would like to thank everyone who volunteered to be interviewed. I would also like to thank Doug Abel, Bob Chappell, Steven Hathaway, John Kusiak, Isaac Silverglate, Nick Rondeau, Dan Mooney, Jeremy Landman, Julie Ahlberg, Robert Fernandez, Amanda Branson Gill, Dina Piscatelli, Eric, Lori and Jessica Lander, Bina Venkataraman, Linda Carlson, Angus Wall, Jennifer Sofio Hall, a52, Kim Bica, Kirsten Thon-Webb, Arcade, Dana May, Patrick Regan, Ronnie Lee, Zoey Taylor, Adam Picchietti, Timothy Collins, Josh Kearney, Max Larkin, Drew Beirut, Reid Savage, Karen Skinner, Ann Petrone and Julia Sheehan.

This Op-Doc video was produced in collaboration with two creative agencies, CHI & Partners NY and Moxie Pictures, and with the I CAN. I WILL. Campaign for Our Time, a nonprofit organization that advocates for young voters and consumers.

Errol Morris  is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker (“The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara”) and author of the recent book “A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.” His first film, “Gates of Heaven,” is on Roger Ebert’s list of the 10 best movies ever made, and his latest, “The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld,” will open in 2013.  He lives in Cambridge, Mass., with his wife and two French bulldogs.

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