The Prized Token of Sticking Together on Election Day
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Since we're probably standing in a rather long line right now, let us take a moment to praise something as simple as wearing one's little "I Voted" sticker all day long, and wearing it today-- even if, to some people, the sticker says sucker.
Please note that the sticker doesn't say "I Already Voted." (Though there's a market for those. About 30 million Americans, one-quarter of all voters, already have voted.) The sticker doesn't say "First!"
It says you stood in a school cafeteria or a branch library or a community center gymnasium this morning or this afternoon, or you'll stand there tonight after work, and it says that you stood there because you thought of yourself as no less noble (and no more important) than anyone else. These days, that's huge. You voiced your opinion while also remaining part of a "we." You took your turn. It's the opposite of "The Amazing Race." It's the amazing wait.
Granted, there are all sorts of legitimate reasons to vote early, up to and including rampant hipsterism or the paranoid feeling that your vote could get lost in a crowd. Voting early may be all the rage, but it's a little like having a black smear on your forehead on Ash Tuesday. Does it get you that much closer to heaven?
There was this video that popped up the other day, from a get-out-the-vote group in California called Why Tuesday?, which shows a dude named Jacob Soboroff (the founder of Why Tuesday?) and actress Kirsten Dunst, and their little trip to the Los Angeles County clerk's office to vote early. They are smug and way, way ahead. It was days ago -- Oct. 20. They made it seem like a date. "You guys should go vote," he says. "Or volunteer," she says.
Is voting early like waiting all night to make sure you get the first of the new iPhones? Did it make you feel more American? Is it like those kids from the Ron Clark Academy, dancing and singing about "you can vote however you like"?
Because in many states, you can! Have it your way! The customer is always right, and the customer is always you.
You sure have gotten a lot of exposure lately. You are Joe the Plumber. You and your family. You, you, you and no one else. You and your social networks online. You've grown accustomed to setting your own preferences. You want everything now.
"We" is so lost. We click on our faves and disregard the rest. We don't see movies together anymore in the dark at appointed times. We don't watch TV shows when they originally air; we watch them when we want. We don't watch or read the same news the same way. We don't sing the same Top 40. We don't even watch the Super Bowl together anymore. We pause it and let it flow forth in real time so that you can watch it several minutes behind, apart, because you don't like ads.
Today, what's left of We stands in line for what may be the last true Election Day. By 2012 and 2016, there will probably be an Election Window, like the enrollment period for company health plans. U cn txt ur vote to the # on the scrn.
For now, the "I Voted" sticker remains gloriously the same. Oh, some jurisdictions may dress it up -- Prince William's sticker is much jazzier than the District's simple white circle with the red "X" in the box -- but the message is clearer than ever: I kick it old school. I waited in line with everyone else on the appointed day, because "everyone" is the whole idea. The "I Voted" sticker has been around a long time, at least five election cycles. (A Florida manufacturer claims to have been making "the original" version since 1986, but it probably goes back further.)
The District of Columbia Voter's Guide showed up several days ago in our mail, and on the front cover was a cartoon of a ballot and a pencil holding hands and jumping happily. There was something rudimentary and childlike, almost Hello Kitty about them. It made it feel like social studies class. It's dorky cool, more cool than watching Kirsten Dunst vote early. "You complete us," read the cute words beneath the Pencil and the Ballot, in a retro '70s-style italic. What followed was 57 sober pages of instructions, rules, sample ballots, statements from candidates and long lists of potential advisory neighborhood commissioners.
There's so much to love about the standing part today, amid all the drab beige, taking in the smell of someone else's coffee, rereading the entire newspaper, stuck in the line of voters that doesn't seem to move but, in fact, does. Then comes the sticker.
What a wonderful and boring thing, voting together.