The candidates, the pollsters, the pundits, the media, and the political consultants who make all of those crazy campaign ads have had their say. Now it’s up to the voters.
Despite all of the hoopla about what a landslide election this could be for the Republicans, I predict many of the races will be extremely close--within a couple thousand votes. And that means every vote does count.
When people talk about the Republican wave of 1994--something I know a little bit about since I wrote the book The Freshmen: What Happened to the Republican Revolution? about that election and its aftermath--they forget how close many of those races were.
Of the 73 GOP freshmen elected to the House of Representatives that year, 29 won with 52 percent of the vote or less, many by only a couple thousand votes and some by only a couple of hundred.
This fall I did a lot of traveling around the country doing interviews with candidates and citizens for a book on independent/swing voters. When I asked two candidates from different parties in what will probably be two of the tightest and most closely watched elections in the country what they expected it to come down to--they both gave me the same answer--votes.
Republican Ken Buck, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Colorado, and Ted Strickland, running for re-election to the governorship of Ohio, both looked me straight in the eye and said it would come down to votes and turnout. And that’s exactly what it will come down to.
Both parties will be doing their level best to get their voters out, but it is even more important for the 37 percent of American voters who consider themselves independents or unaffiliated voters to go to the polls. This election is too important to leave to the two political parties.
In his rally on the mall this weekend, comedian/political pundit Jon Stewart missed a huge opportunity in my view. It was no small feat for him to gather together several hundred thousand people from all over the country.
Most of the people I interviewed that day--from all age and demographic groups and from all over the country--said they were there mostly to have a good time.
I spoke with three sisters from Kentucky and West Virginia between the ages of 56-66 who said they drove to D.C. because they were big Stewart fans. They said they had a good time and met some nice people. But ultimately, they were disappointed that Stewart didn’t close the rally by encouraging all of those in attendance to vote today.
I also met a number of young people who said they weren’t registered, didn’t know who their member of Congress was, and probably didn’t plan to vote.
Stewart likes to say that he is just a comedian but the Saturday rally proved otherwise. He closed the event with an indictment of the traditional media. “The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false,” Stewart declared.
But what the media will be reflecting back tonight is the results of the elections around the country.
The first step to addressing and solving our problems is for everyone to be involved--not by attending a rally on Saturday afternoon but by voting, being in touch with their local and national representatives, and making their voices and opinions heard.
“It doesn’t matter what we say or do here today,” Stewart told the crowd, “it matters what is reported about what we said or did here today.” Undoubtedly, he was being tongue in cheek but he was also wrong. He should have encouraged all of those people who cared enough to travel hundreds, even thousands, of miles to be there to go a few miles out of their way and give up a few minutes today to vote. Stewart’s rally could have mattered a great deal but in the end it was just a party.
Stewart blew the chance to make a difference. Maybe that’s not his goal. But he’s just as hypocritical as the media and politicians he loves to skewer if he declares they don’t represent the real America and then declines to do anything, even make the smallest encouragement, to fix the problem.
So, for those of you out there who haven’t voted yet, I am going to do what Jon Stewart wouldn’t and encourage you to go to the polls.
To find your polling place: www.vote411.org
Sample ballot and candidate information: www.smartvoter.org
Match your views with candidates and other great tools: www.votesmart.org
Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE www.866ourvote.org