Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Calling for change

Years ago, in America’s not-so-distant past, having party allegiance meant something among the masses; common people had a vested interest in political parties because they quite literally brought food to the table.

“There was a sudden delivery of coal, carried into the house by a burley man with a blackened face,” recalled Novelist Pete Hamill in a passage about growing up in Brooklyn after the Second World War. “And on the day before Christmas, another man arrived with a turkey. I asked who the men where and was told by my father the party.”

Yes, back then, being affiliated with a party meant benefits; tangible fringe benefits. But in today’s go-go society, party loyalty means hassle, lots of hassle, the least of which are a gaggle of operatives spelunking around the nether regions of Saratoga Springs in a vain effort to find one more lawn to post a campaign sign for whatever candidate their trying to foist as an honest politician.

At least these folks get out into the community and make an effort, albeit a hollow one, at convincing people their man or woman will ensure a warm living room for the winter and a roast turkey for Christmas. Now, the geniuses of MoveOn.org –an organization that supposedly started as a sort of grass-roots door-kocking band of political operatives –have decided to shift the focus to technology in their “calling for change” campaign in the 20th congressional district.

In a recent media release, the organization boasts that its members will use cutting-edge phone banking techniques to target Democrats and “like minded independent voters” who cast ballots in the presidential race, but not in congressional elections. So if you’re left-leaning and have a publicly listed phone number, expect calls from MoveOn.org members not once, but three times between now and Election Day.

True, there are fickle voters out there who might suffer from extreme myopia and not see the litter of signs coating every street corner from Glens Falls to Hyde Park. And maybe –just maybe –there are still some folks out there that haven’t gotten acclimated to elections being held on the first Tuesday of every November of every year.

But there is something about these phone bank call campaigns that seems to scream out wasted resources. Sure it’s a lot easier to pick up a phone and war-dial 50 or so voters in an hour rather than engaging them in a substantive dialogue about the election. However, these are two things that are increasingly absent from the election cycle these days: substance and dialogue.

Granted, times are much different today than they were sixty years ago during Hamill’s youth. Party loyalty is generally only worth how much one is willing to whore themselves out for any given party and the chances that either John Sweeney or Kirstin Gillibrand will ever show up bearing a weeks’ worth of sustenance is probably about as likely as either of them doing much of anything after being elected. Maybe if politics were more about bring tangible things to the people, such as food on the table or fuel in the furnace, rather than annoying mid-evening phone calls from some intangible impersonal dolt playing tweak the phone bank, then voters wouldn’t be so goddamn apathetic.

And maybe if these politicians gave a rat’s ass about the people they serve, they’d consider using some of their cash jammed in their multi-million dollar war chests to bring something more to the people than some useless yard signs and a bunch of glossy mailers that end up in the garbage quicker than the present the family pet left steaming on the kitchen floor.

Then again, no self-respecting politician actually wants to involve the working class in the election, much less those who would readily accept a free turkey for the holidays or some heating assistance during the grueling months of winter.


Blogger John O'Neil said...

I suggest an action for all of us to take this Election Day. It isn't abstaining, because that is utter inaction and it doesn't send a message. It doesn't involve joining a political action group making pain in the ass phone calls or emailing a bunch of spam.

It's quite simple - just write in a vote for REFORM. I'm doing it for the New York State Assembly and Senate because most of the seats are quite safe (they were gerrymandered in just that way) and if enough people do it it can send a message to Albany, DC or whoever else we're pissed off at.


5:31 PM  

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