Craig Ferguson on Voting

Here is a much more compelling call to vote than the video I previously commented on. I don’t really watch his show, but I like his earnestness. One thing I dislike about late-night talk shows is the reluctance of their hosts to have a real opinion on anything, seemingly out of fear that their audience will disagree with them. Ferguson doesn’t exactly say anything shocking, but his directness impresses me. Everything said by Letterman and Conan is hid behind a filter of irony and sarcasm – you’re never quite sure when they are being serious, so in a way it is a type of protection against criticism. I used to do that too when I was younger and more (yes, even more) sarcastic.

In the video Craig Ferguson argues that it is ones duty to vote, if you don’t vote you can’t complain, etc. Ok, I’ll let my readers in on a little secret: I didn’t vote in 2000. Yikes… Yeah, I know. But I complained. A lot. Especially after 9/11 when everything turned shitty. I had a right to complain. I started caring and then I started complaining. When I would reveal that I hadn’t voted (I was smart enough to make this a seldom occurrence), some people would hiss that I had no right to complain. I had the right by virtue of the fact that I didn’t really care in 2000 and I did in 2002. So I should be penalized for my past transgressions instead of welcomed into the world of the “socially conscious”? The whole ‘if you don’t vote you can’t complain’ thing is merely a fear tactic. The idea that said nonvoter would subsequently be sentenced to a 4 year detention period on airing their ideas is ridiculous. We are not in this shitty state because so many people didn’t vote, we are in this state because so many people voted for Bush.

If people want to change politics they need to find a way to convince people to vote, and that responsibility will fall on the Democrats and the third parties. The Republicans don’t want more people to vote, that’s how they will lose. Case in point, have you noticed that most of the states that have that absurd registration deadline today are traditionally red? Not a coincidence.

The other thing we need to change is that ridiculous electoral college bullshit. One of the main things that discourages people from voting is the fact that, as is clear from 2000, your vote don’t mean shit. Give people a sense that what they are doing actually matters and I think they will feel more empowered. We need to abolish the electoral college, enact same-day voter registration in all fifty states, have a commission to fight voter disenfranchisement, and have technologically advanced methods of voting and recording votes with intense oversight. Until this happens, you cannot blame people for not voting. You can guilt them and tell them they are going to um, Die or something, but it won’t matter. We have to find a way to make people care.

PS. did you know that Puff Daddy didn’t end up voting in 2004, after being the face of Vote or Die? What an asshole.


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7 responses to “Craig Ferguson on Voting

  1. DJA

    So I should be penalized for my past transgressions instead of welcomed into the world of the “socially conscious”?

    Well, look, my friend. You fucked up. You know you fucked up. The appropriate thing to do (which I am sure you did!) is to show a little bit of humilty and contrition. Especially towards your friends (and I know you must have had ’em) who were pleading with you to help them stop George W. Bush from taking office. They were right, you were wrong, and you know, sometimes you’ve got to eat a little crow.

    Anyway, I am sure you have long since done your penance! You are forgiven, my son.

    But you know, this issue is why I can’t fucking stand Andrew Sullivan. I know you dig his stuff, but he has, IMO, not shown a moment’s contrition for being a full-bore cheerleader for Bush, and for calling me and everyone else who opposed the Iraq war traitors. His exact words were: “The middle part of the country—the great red zone that voted for Bush—is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead—and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column.” To my knowledge he’s never apologized for this or retracted it. I’m glad he’s come to his senses (on some issues) but he’s got a long way to go before he convinces me that he’s learned anything from his mistakes. (Of course, Sully’s a high-profile opinion columnist, so I think it’s fair to hold him to a higher standard than ordinary citizens.)

    We are not in this shitty state because so many people didn’t vote, we are in this state because so many people voted for Bush.

    Actually, we are in this shitty state because not enough people voted for Gore. Because far too many people had some kind of fucked-up idea of what a vote is. It’s not an expression of personal identy or personal beliefs. It’s not like a fucking tattoo or a piercing, fercrissakes. It’s a tool of instrumental rationality. It’s a means to an end.

    In 2000, that end — which I think everyone will agree in hindsight was a pretty fucking important end — was to prevent W. from taking office. And the only viable means to that end was to vote for Gore. It shouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference whether you liked Gore, or even whether you agreed with a majority of his policies. The only thing that mattered was that he was the only person standing between W. and the White House.

    “The other guy is worse” isn’t just a good reason to vote for someone. It’s the only reason. I realize that may not sound all highfalutin’ and inspirational, but democracy is dirty work.

  2. Mafoo

    It was a fuckup insofar as I didn’t care enough I guess. But the question arises, is it the fault of people who don’t care or the fault of the Democrats to make their case, or the sheer ingenuity of the Republican bullshit machine to play upon both of those? I’m not of the mind that it was the 3 percent who voted for Nader who caused Bush to win, Gore should have taken that election easily, but ran a bad campaign. And of course, he did win, but we all know what happened in Florida.
    Speaking from a purely introspective level, I remember the shame I felt after Bush won very distinctly; but I also remember the emptiness I felt after voting for Kerry in 2004. It was an odd feeling, voting for a man who was pro-war, anti-Gay marriage, who stood for so much I was against – simply because he wasn’t Bush. I felt it was my duty, but I could clearly see how this distasteful action could be unappealing to many people. As just as the “the other guys is worse” argument may be, it is hardly a successful argument in practice. And of course, that election proved it.

    Re: Andrew Sullivan

    I’m a fan of The Daily Dish, less because I agree with his politics (about 50% of the time), but more because it’s sort of a compendium of what is being written about politically online. Also, I like unique voices and he tends to have novel views on certain issues. His support for the Iraq War irks the hell out of me, but he has recanted several times. But let’s not forget how wide-spread the support for the war was at the time. Christopher Hitchens, who I respect, was also a supporter, both Clintons, Kerry of course, and 73% of the country. I remember tearing my hair out at the time, as I’m sure you do too, but in the same vein as my entry into the “socially conscious” we should recognize these people seeing the light. Actually though, my cynical side has never really bought the fact that some politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Kerry, were as duped as they claimed. I saw through the administration’s flimsy claims and sometimes it’s hard to buy that they were so naive.

  3. DJA

    Yeah, not caring is definitely a form of fucking up, especially given how many lives are at stake.

    Yes, Gore ran a bad campaign. But a lot of people (especially people my age) acted irrationally. I think the “emptiness” you felt voting for Gore comes from a (widespread) misunderstanding of what your vote is for. It’s not supposed to be a fulfilling personal experience or a validation of your own political philosophy. It’s supposed make the world a better place by preventing the greater of two evils from winning. Which, I think you will agree, is way more important than feeling warm fuzzies about the guy you voted for.

    I’m aware this isn’t necessarily the most persuasive argument in the world. But I also think it’s fundamentally correct — rational people shouldn’t expect voting to make them feel good. That’s not what voting is for. If people only bother to vote when they are truly inspired by their candidate, that’s a problem. Most politicians aren’t inspiring. And many inspiring politicians are terrible leaders.

    Also: you are absolutely right that Kerry’s war vote was cynical and craven. (As was Hillary’s, and BIden’s, etc.) I’m not making excuses. But there is also no question that the country, and the world, would be in much better shape had the 2004 election gone the other way.

  4. DJA

    Also, point taken on Sully’s mea culpas on the war. I’m still waiting for him to apologize for calling me a traitor, though.

  5. DJA

    Also, I meant: “’emptiness’ voting for Kerry” (not Gore) obviously.

  6. Mafoo

    It’s not supposed to be a fulfilling personal experience or a validation of your own political philosophy.

    Yeah, that’s sometimes the hard thing to accept. To be honest, I’m still very bothered by Obama’s stance supporting “civil unions” rather than gay marriage, which I view as purely political. It’s hard not to feel as if I’m pulling the lever for a second-class status for gays. But there’s no real better option I guess.

  7. DJA

    Yeah, that’s sometimes the hard thing to accept.

    I hear that. I think it might be easier to accept if the voting-as-self-expression myth didn’t keep getting reinforced by everyone at every turn. Calling it a “duty,” as Ferguson does, is maybe a good start, but people have to get better at explaining why it’s a necessary duty, instead of building it up into some kind of mystical self-affirming blissful act.

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