Tuesday, February 05, 2008

disenfranchised

disenfranchised

adjective
deprived of the rights of citizenship especially the right to vote


Ever since I was old enough to vote I have proudly registered myself Independent or Unaffiliated or whatever the label is for not being Republican or Democrat. And, for the most part, I have kept my voter registration current throughout my many, many, many moves. This despite the fact that as a general rule politics irritate me. I dislike the combativeness of it, the seedy, slimy political-ness of it and the pandering. Oh how I hate the pandering of politicians trying to win one special interest group or another over to garner votes. I can honestly say that previously there has never been an election in which I have been excited or invested in any way. I am generally irritated by news media coverage that always seems slanted for or against a particular candidate with personal biases overcoming any sense of reason. Political shows are even worse in that they resort to personal insults and shouting, neither of which helps get to the bottom of what a particular candidate is really about. Plus, I think the divisiveness and polarization of the political parties is fueled and fanned by red herring issues which only incite emotional reactions rather than logical reasoning.

All that being said, this presidential race is different.

I observed passively at first with a gut reaction toward a young candidate whose poise and eloquence first lured me in when I read his memoir in 2006 when presidential hopes were still a ways off. But I didn't hitch my wagon to that train quite yet. Instead I started reading everything I could about him and the more I read the more I liked. As campaigning got serious and more and more hats were tossed into the ring I expanded my attention to the other candidates.

Early on I was bombarded with Romney materials from friends and acquaintances volunteering to push his campaign forward. I liked him as the governor of Massachusetts but I was unimpressed by how significantly he seemed to be reforming himself in an effort to appeal to the more extreme conservatives of the Republican party. I don't object so much to the flip-flopping as many are prone to call it as I do to the pandering - the deliberate appeal to an extreme group who will never accept him simply because he is Mormon, no matter how much he claims "hey guys, I'm just like you." Because as a Mormon, I don't want or need the endorsement or approval of those who deliberately and emphatically preach against my beliefs and I don't like watching one of my own sucking up to those who hate him just for his beliefs. So Mitt was never a contender for me.

McCain on the other hand gained some ground as I discussed his views and policies with my brother who urged me to examine McCain further and honestly his fierce advocacy for legislation that crossed party lines was appealing since what I dislike most about politics are the stark party lines. I like his frankness and refusal to conform for the sake of conformity and at the expense of his own personal beliefs, even if I don't always agree with what he is holding onto so fiercely. Yet there are a number of items on which we do agree (immigration and global warming topping that list) and I will say that I will be happy to see him get the Republican nomination (as I believe he will).

However, Obama has pulled me in. He has an indescribable quality that first grabbed my attention years ago when he sprung onto the national scene after his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. But I didn't want to just be swept away by the romance of it as the author of this New York magazine article suggests when he stated:

If you find yourself swept up in Obamamania, on the other hand, you regard this
assessment [that "politics is politics, that partisanship isn’t transmutable, that
Republicans are for the most part irredeemable"] as sad, defeatist, as a kind of capitulation. You’re perfectly aware that politics is often a dirty business. But you believe it could be a bit cleaner, a bit nobler, a bit more sustaining. You think that paradigm shifts can happen, that the system can be rebooted. Most of all, an attraction to Obama indicates you are, on some level, a romantic. You never had your JFK, your MLK, and you desperately crave one: What you want is to fall in love.

I wanted and needed to be sure (I still do). So I kept reading and watching and waiting for the thing that would make me toss him back in the pile of sneaky, self-interested, power-hungry politicians - you know, with the Clintons. But that hasn't happened. Hillary Clinton repeatedly calls him naive for his focus on reforming Washington with "Change!" and his oft repeated "we can disagree without being disagreeable." I see him as a leader. A leader who is capable of inspiring people to come to the table and work toward the betterment of this country. A leader who listens. I don't think there are many people out there who would deny our country has problems (although we don't all prioritize the problems in the same way). I believe everyone is just approaching the solutions from different directions. And I for one would prefer to have a leader who knows how to listen and seek compromise. And after a lifetime (mine at least) of divisiveness, I would like a president intent on focusing on our commonalities and bringing us together - whether that sounds like kumbaya or not.

Unfortunately for me, my voice will not be heard today. In January when I decided I definitely wanted to vote in the Democratic primaries I began researching whether New York had open or closed primary polling. I soon discovered the bad news - CLOSED. With the primary registration date drawing near I downloaded a registration form only to discover that if I was not registered to vote in New York I could register with whatever party my heart desired. However, since I was already registered without a party affiliation I discovered after reading through pages of convoluted nonsense that I would have to "change my party" by sending in the registration form. In order for that to take effect before today's primary I would have had to have taken this step last October. Yes, last OCTOBER! Back when I had no definite idea of which party I wanted to affiliate with, back when I had no idea how close the race would be, and most importantly, back when NO ONE told me I needed to change my party registration in order to vote in the New York primaries. I read the NY Times almost daily, I watch local news in the morning and I feel I am generally well-informed and have been paying close attention to politics for several months. But, changing my party affiliation was the last thing I thought about back in October.

Being the lawyer that I am, I tried to mince words a bit and sent in my registration anyway rationalizing that I wasn't technically changing my party if I am currently not registered with any party. They didn't buy it. I was hopeful when I received a postcard in the mail from voter registration only to discover my party was listed as "NONE".

So today, as everyone makes their ways to the polls and participates in what I view as an historically significant election, I am forced to hang my head in shame because I was unable to vote. I feel I have been disenfranchised. I guess I should take comfort in the fact that under New York state law, come December or so I will be a registered Democrat when it won't really matter to me anymore.

4 comments:

Tiffany said...

That really is a crazy law. I love what you wrote here and I agree that this is the first race in my lifetime where I truly believe that so much is on the line. I view Obama in much the same way. I timidly keep waiting to be disappointed by him (fearing that I'm making an emotional decision), but I really think he's got amazing leadership skills that might actually unite this country. I know my vote didn't count for anything today (Romney is projected at 88%???) but I'm happy for the opportunity just the same.

And just for the record, I don't think anybody should have to (or even should) be registered with either party. Why shouldn't we just go in and vote for the candidate--regardless of party--who represents us best!

michele said...

sorry alyssa, how dissapointing and frustrating. i agree with tiffany - we should be able to vote for the cantidate that best represents us.

autumn said...

That is too bad...clear back in October? What is that. I also agree with your Obama thoughts. I've been thinking about it and am not totally swayed yet, but what I see, I like.

Mike - (Katie's Mike) said...

To make it worse, think of all of those illegals who were encouraged to register to vote by grass roots campaigns within the past 8 years or so. You, as a legal citizen, were disenfranchised! There's no reason that a person shouldn't be able to go to the polling location and re-register 'on demand', especially with citizenry documentation.

Honestly, out of the 3 top candidates, Obama is clearly the one who represents change from politics of the past. He only has limited national experience whereas the other two, we know exactly what we can expect from them. Unfortunately, my presidential hopeful has gone by the wayside, becuase we continually prove we are a nation of bigots, racists, and the poverty stricken. It seems to me that both national parties rely to a heavy degree on this fact to be able to get elected. Yes, I voted for Romney even though I am represented by a Union and work for a quasi-federal government agency. Can you just imagine the type of person the nation as a whole could elect if we were all actively informed about any candidate or any issue, not relying on television or newspapers to 'tell' a person what is going on. I always feel they (media in general, including the internet) guide a person into thinking a certain way, by controlling every bit of information they direct at a person. i.e. how much have you heard about Iraq lately. I have felt terribly manipulated for this presidential election cycle, and I live in Utah. Sorry for that rant. However, I don't like what Obama stands for either. He is very blunt in what he wants and what his plans are for the country. At this point, I am taking a "wait-and-see" stance, because I don't like all the current talk about socialistic policies. I believe that even a little socialism stiffles for many, the American Dream. I know that the stars would have to align just right for that to happen....thank goodness. I have really enjoyed reading your blog.

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