The message the real world sends to policy wonks – left and right – is “Get out of my face and leave me the HELL alone!” No, that doesn’t equate to a libertarian/anarcho-utopian, fee-for-service, non-governmental, post-apocalyptic vision of things to come. It is simply the overwhelming message of the average American in a mall on a Saturday afternoon when accosted by a volunteer for a Voter Registration Drive.
“What the (fill in the blank with your favorite declension of the f-word)?” you say. Yes. Truth.
I volunteered on Saturday afternoon to do my civic duty in North Carolina’s Union County; joining the Obama 2012 campaign's effort at the local mall to register voters. Our mall draws a diverse crowd – especially before holidays, and of course, Easter is on the way. We saw all ages and sexes; families of whites, blacks and Latinos all roaming the stores and the food court. What we didn’t see were very many people interested in voter registration. We had an enormous table – with signs and banners – in the food court and at least half a dozen volunteers with clipboards, wandering the corridors at any given time.
North Carolina law requires that any registered voter who has changed addresses or married and changed names since the last election re-register. We expected to at least find a number of those folks. We also have a primary election on May 8, in which the controversial Amendment 1 to our State Constitution is on the ballot as a referendum. To be eligible to vote in the primary; voters must be registered by April 13. So, there were plenty of incentives; plenty of volunteers and plenty of potential voters to sign up…why didn’t we get them to do so in humongous numbers?
Yes, we got some people to do so…and yes, a few took registration forms home with them to fill out later and return to the County Election Board via the printed mailing address on the back.
But here is how the greatest proportion of my encounters usually went – no matter whom I accosted:
Susan (with big, cheery smile, holding up clipboard to show sign on back in large lettering saying REGISTER TO VOTE): Hello! We’re holding a voter registration drive today. Are you registered to vote?
Shopper (waves dismissively and passes by): Not interested.
What?!? Excuse me? These are life and death issues here! They’re trying to amend our state constitution to limit all marriage benefits to male-female marriages (which, by the way, would force parents of the opposite sex who are NOT married to get married or lose benefits for their children…and force widows and widowers to lose benefits!). Aren’t you interested in whether President Obama wins re-election? Don’t you care whether your Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security benefits are there for you? What is wrong with you? That is what went through my mind – I hasten to add that I did not voice those thoughts!
No. They don’t care. It doesn’t reach their radar screens. They’ve tuned out. They’re more concerned with the Buy-1-Get-2-Free men’s slacks deal at the department store and with getting their nails done or their phones re-programmed.
Only PolicyMic wonks care. WE’RE the ones in the bubble!