The Enthusiasm Gap

After working for the Obama campaign a few months over the spring, before and after the April primary, I took a little break from politics to undertake other things going on in my life. However, once I finished teaching for the spring semester, I was eager to get involved with the campaign again, so last night, Jenna and I took part in a voter registration drive around Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square. I’ve worked on different presidential campaigns since 2004, and I’ve always liked the voter registration drives the best, certainly a lot more than making phone calls and knocking on doors. Voter registration draws less combative people.

As we circled the square several times yesterday with clipboards in hand, I noticed a major attitude shift compared to the 2008 campaign. Several people we encountered simply did not want to register to vote for either party or either candidate. A few people just threw their hands in the air and walked away. I assume that some of them are fed up with the gridlock between the White House and GOP-controlled House that they don’t want any part of the system. Maybe others feel like their voice doesn’t count. In 2008, though, we always had people eager to sign up to vote.

It’s quite probable that a lot of people are disappointed in the president, though none of them said so to our faces. In 2008 a lot folks, especially young people, were eager to register and vote for him. But three years later, the economy is still shaky and the president’s agenda is stalled, due to the gridlock. Maybe the enthusasm gap is partially the president’s fault for running on the lofty taglines of hope and change in 2008, but it is also naive to think that any single politician can fix anything in one term, considering how close this country came in 2008 to a total financial meltdown, before the president took the oath of office. When I watched people walk away or listened to them say they aren’t at all interested in politics, I had to keep my thoughts to myself. I wanted to shake some of these people and ask them, how can you not pay attention to anything? I’ve always had friends deeply interested in current events, and I come from a family where everyone votes in elections. Our politicians and community organizers need to do a far better job making people believe that they still do have a say, even in the age of Citizens United where corporations can donate unlimited money to candidates. I’m also a firm believer that if you are fed up, get up and do something. Run for office or get involved in your community in other ways.

Regardless of which party people vote for, I hope they get out and vote. The difference between both parties and their vision for this country hasn’t been so stark in a few decades, and this is probably going to be a razor-thin election, so yes, every vote does count, especially in swing states, which includes PA.

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