Election Day

by Brian on November 2, 2004

It’s nice to see which bloggers think “the most important moment in the election campaign”:http://nytimes.com/2004/11/02/opinion/02blogger-final.html?pagewanted=3&hp was centred around _them_. It reminds me of how I answer when someone asks me what the most important events in recent philosophy have been. (Well, there was this conference on the west coast I was at, and this long lunch with a few friends where we solved a bunch of problems and…)

More seriously, America’s Greatest Columnist turns in a blinder on “the joy of voting”:http://nytimes.com/2004/11/02/opinion/02krugman.html?hp.

On any election day back home I was always working the polls, so voting was something you squeezed in when the queues got short. Race in, try to make sure you fill in all the boxes in the right order as quickly as possible (hard work if you have idiosyncratic Senate preferences), race back outside to carry on the noble task of making sure every punter gets one more flier before they go in to vote. So I’d never paid much attention to the sense of what it’s like to vote. But I was talking to someone recently who’d never been able to vote because they’d never had their citizenship and their residency match up in the requisite ways, and they were talking about how special it would be to be able to cast a vote.

So even if every race in your area is a blowout, it’s probably worth trotting along to the nearest school or town hall or wherever you vote, and being part of it all. We could argue until the election lawsuits are decided about whether voting is individually rational. (I have a complicated game-theoretic argument that it is, but it never convinces anyone.) But that would miss the point of the day, which is that over here, as in so few places in history, people get to participate in picking their leaders. Being part of that is something to value, something that more Americans than I could have imagined have shown they value very very dearly.

But if that’s all too sentimentalist for you and you want more mundane messages, there’s only one that matters today.

“GO KERRY!”:http://espn-att.starwave.com/media/other/2004/1101/photo/decision2004_ft.jpg



Machiel 11.02.04 at 10:49 am

From the Netherlands (where we since this morning have other things on our mind than the US elections, see Google news) : Good luck with your voting, and Go Kerry! !


des von bladet 11.02.04 at 10:55 am

[T]his is democracy, America’s great gift to the world, in action.

On behalf of The World, I wish to say, “Huh?”

My own Will to Democracy is strong, of course, although for some reason I have been excluded from exercising it in this choice of Leader of the Free World.


Michael Mouse 11.02.04 at 12:18 pm

Yes, voting is a special pleasure. I urge all eligible voters who read this to heed the wisdom of old saw: Vote early, and vote often.


G. Svenson 11.02.04 at 2:27 pm

Nader! Nader! Nader!!!!


teep 11.02.04 at 2:50 pm

It’d be nice if my guy wins. I live in Pennsylvania, one of ye olde swing states, so you can bet your boots I’m voting. However, even if my guy doesn’t win, I will still be reasonably happy as long as we have a smoothly-running, mostly-honest election. (Perfect honesty, I expect, is beyond our reach.)

I don’t want to see another mess like in Florida in 2000. I don’t want endless dicking around while people fight over chads or poorly-designed ballots until every last citizen is damn tired of living in a democracy. I want to feel like the process works, like it’s honest and fair, whether or not my guy wins. I want to believe.


Donald Johnson 11.02.04 at 3:51 pm

That Krugman line about democracy as “America’s gift to the world” was a little jarring. Jingoism thrives on all parts of the American political spectrum.


Ken C. 11.02.04 at 4:17 pm

” [T]his is democracy, America’s
great gift to the world, in

On behalf of The World, I wish to say, “Huh?” ”

Look, not to deny the flaws of America’s system (especially these days), and not to deny that what we’ve wanted for ourselves doesn’t always match what we’ve imposed on others, and not to deny that it didn’t arise in other places before.

But: the rise of democracy, of a wider and wider range of people with a vote, of majority rule with protection of minority rights, of free speech and civil liberties, of a more open and tolerant society; this was a beautiful and profound change in human affairs, and America was and remains an important part of it.


Uncle Kvetch 11.02.04 at 5:00 pm

America was and remains an important part of it.

Which is not at all the same as saying it’s “America’s gift to the world.”

I’m as big a fan of Krugman as anyone, but I’m disappointed by this.


mona 11.02.04 at 5:39 pm

Speaking of gifts to the world, I’m willing to take a bit of benevolent jingoism as long as you guys there vote Bush out. Please. If you do it, we’ll even concede you invented soccer, not just democracy. Anything you like, you do it better, you’re the best, it’s all yours, we love you, Americans, more than ever. Just as long as we don’t see Georgie boy on the news every day. Thank you :)

Good luck!


JRoth 11.02.04 at 6:54 pm

I was a bit surprised to see Krugman say that, as well, but I wonder, to all you who are SO offended, which nations you view as having had an equal or greater contribution to the widespread distribution of “Western Democracy?”

I mean, I can think of a few examples – UK Parliament, ND States-General, Switzerland – that pointed in the direction, but they’re all fairly undeveloped relative to what the US established in 1787. I mean, the Magna Carta was great and all, but it took about 650 years to actually lead to anything like democracy. AFAIK (and I was educated in the US, and thus blinkered), no one else at the time achieved anything comparable, much less anything as long-lived and broad-based.

(If anyone mentions the catastrophically failed Revolution of 1789, I’ll scream.)


Buck 11.02.04 at 7:39 pm

Mona, Americans don’t care for soccer despite the endless kids’ leagues and soccer moms (now security moms, of course).

All I ask is that other countries give Kerry a long honeymoon — God knows the Republicans aren’t going to.


mona 11.02.04 at 8:02 pm

Yes, Buck, I know, but _we_ care. I want Bush out so bad I’d be willing to concede the Americans are better at soccer than the Brasilians. (I’m not sure the Brasilians would, though).
Or that American football is the best sport in the world.
I’ll even start eating at McDonald’s. And buy loads of ketchup…


Ian Montgomerie 11.02.04 at 8:22 pm

Democracy wasn’t ANYBODY’s “gift” to the world. Everywhere that got it tended to have a hard struggle for it. That was a spectacularly unfortunate choice of phrasing.


JPed 11.02.04 at 8:28 pm

How to tell you live in a swing state (Wisconsin, in my case):

1. While attending a Kerry rally on election day minus one, you look up into the rain and see Air Force One departing for the next swing state.
2. You have been unwilling to answer your home phone for a week.
3. The only way to avoid getting yet more fliers in your mailbox is to tape your “I Voted Today” sticker onto your front door.
4. You have received 6 automated phone calls urging you to vote, and the day is not half over yet.
5. Earnest-looking-but-slightly-lost people are wandering your neighborhood with fliers. Fortunately, they read your sticker and wrote “Thank You” on it.

Here in far southeastern Wisconsin, it looks like turnout is high, which most observers think gives Kerry the edge. Hopefully so, but we won’t know until the … er … I don’t think any of the female Justices on the Supreme Court are fat, but maybe one of them sings a little…

Mona, please, don’t promise to switch to Mickey D’s before watching SuperSize Me. On the other hand, perhaps you need a new car or nine, and I hear Ford has products available globally…


Anonymous 11.02.04 at 11:03 pm

[T]his is democracy, America’s great gift to the world

Latin America, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan humbly thank America for its most valuable gift of democracy.

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