State of Affairs

Jim Fairthorne’s take on the political scene in America

Archive for the ‘Future’ Category

Hope and Change – The Slogans of our time

Posted by yoozur on November 3, 2008

The date was 1914, the year of the first great war of the 20th Century. Generals, soldiers, politicians and citizens of Europe’s great powers were blissfully unaware of the realities of modern combat, and the presiding mood was one of optimism, of ambition, and in many cases outright desire for combat. The rise of nationalism, patriotism and jingoism all came to a front during this period, and songs and slogans boasting their nation’s power and military prowess were everywhere. While it would be easy for conteporary thinkers to look back at the people of this period as misguided and overambitious, it would be drastically understating the power of groupthink, catchphrases and popular culture, while at the same time, overstating our current resiliance to those sorts of things.

While obviously the subject matter is completely different, and the tone is much less overt, there are some interesting parallels to be drawn between the state of political thought at the turn of the 20th century, and political thought in 2008 (and in particular, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign). First and formost is the appeal to vague ideals, ideals that are supposed to represent the movement as a whole. Secondly is the use of slogans, songs and catchphrases to reign in those who may not fully grasp the real issues at hand. “Yes we can!” “Hope” and “Change” are the three most recognizable slogans of the Obama campaign. The red and blue picture of Obama with Hope written underneath, as well as Obama’s stars and stripes circle are the two most recognizable images.

What does “Yes we can!” mean exactly? How do you quantify hope? Many of these slogans and chants mean different things to different people. To an African American, could “Yes we can!” represent the breakthrough of an African American politician ascending to the presidency? To a staunch Democrat, could Hope signal the end of the stranglehold Republicans have had over the country for almost a decade? The idea behind these campaign slogans is to be an “everything to everyone” message that is easily digestable. But what actual message do these slogans impart? Do they really mean anything, or are they just rallying cries?

We have seen that empty messages are not only capable of inspiring and moving large amounts of people, but are actually more effective than clear, direct messages. It’s much easier to appeal to one’s emotions than to a person’s sensibilities. Emotions are universal. It’s easy to agree with a mob of people chanting “Yes we can!” than people who are discussing potentially divisive issues and policies. It’s easier to sell a T-Shirt with Hope on it, than to sell a plan that dramatically changes the tax structure of the US.

North American culture has been rapidly accelerating, preferring sound bites, quicker edited movies and music videos and fast food. Does the re-emergence, and wild success of the Slogan signal that the pace of politics is picking up as well? Think quickly!

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America lacking the administration to handle this election?

Posted by yoozur on October 30, 2008

With little less than a week until the 2008 presidential election, there is growing concern that several states are dangerously unprepared to meet the challenge of administering an election where voter turnout will likely reach unprecedented levels.

Advancement Project, an organization who works to protect voting integrity, has released a report that examines the probable impact the expected voter turnout will have on precinct polling operations in key battleground states on November 4th.

The study uncovered three major findings, concluding that:

  1. In many jurisdictions, the number of voting machines, privacy booths, and poll workers will likely be insufficient to accommodate all those who may turn out to vote on November 4, 2008. This will likely result in extremely long lines at the polls and “lost” voters unless these problems are addressed beforehand.
  2. Machines, privacy booths, and poll workers have been mis-allocated in many jurisdictions, which will likely result in some precincts within a jurisdiction having long lines due to insufficient resources while neighboring precincts have an efficient Election Day because they have been provided ample numbers of machines, privacy booths, and poll workers.
  3. In some jurisdictions, the allocation of polling place resources is likely to have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. In other words, there will be fewer voting machines or poll workers per voter in high minority precincts than in low minority precincts.

This report had this to say about the nature of the expected explosive vote turnout:

The allocation of polling place resources is of particular concern because fairly small increases in turnout at the precinct level can result in dramatically different wait times. For example, many of the jurisdictions profiled here have had barely enough machines, privacy booths, and poll workers to avoid extended wait times in previous elections using the same resources they are allocating for November. Many others have experienced long lines at the polls in previous elections with the same, or similar, resources. When additional voters are added in November, precincts that were previously relatively efficient could face extremely long lines, and precincts that already had experienced long lines could become overwhelmed.

An indicator of expected voter turnout

With such an explosive expected turnout on the horizon people are getting nervous that come election day their names will not be properly registered in their riding. Rock the Vote (a youth oriented program that aims to register young voters) has reportedly received approximately 2,200 e-mails from people they helped register to vote in New York, NY reporting their names missing were from registration rolls. More than 2.5 million people downloaded registration forms from the group’s Web site, which is just one of several non profit groups who launched full fledged voter registration programs this year.

Rock the Vote: If You Care promo

So what can you do to ensure that you’re information is accurate and accounted for on election day? Take a few minutes and verify your registration. If you’re unsure which county you reside in you can check NACo Data & Demographics, and from there you can verify that you are registered over at votepoke. Showing up at the last minute is naturally a bad idea, and be sure you don’t leave the voting booth until your vote has been correctly cast. If you find that your name HAS in fact been dropped, use NACo to find the number of your county representative and demand they fix the problem. Best of luck to everyone on November 4th, if you have any tips or updates on this issue please let us know below.

Data and maps can be downloaded as separate pdf files at this location.

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Google To Give $10 Million For World Changing Ideas

Posted by yoozur on September 24, 2008

Today Google announced something they are calling 10 to the 100th. It’s a contest where you can submit ideas that you think will benefit the world in some way. The categories range from poverty to the environment. The idea is to find solutions to today’s problems that will benefit the most people worldwide.

Submission deadlines are October 20th, so get thinking about how to change the world!

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