Thursday, October 29, 2009

no surprises

Michael Bloomberg and William Thompson will go head-to-head for the Mayor's office here in New York on Tuesday. It will be a contest decided by thin sliver of New Yorkers, as many of us do not bother to vote in off-year elections. Not at all shockingly, the primary runoffs here in New York City were not well attended, either:

According to preliminary returns, in fact, no votes were recorded in scores of the city’s 6,100 election districts. In hundreds more, where the number of enrolled Democrats ranged from 1 to nearly 1,100, fewer than 10 voters turned out to choose the city’s official watchdog and its chief fiscal steward.

For a week, New Yorkers have known that the runoff was a feeble exercise in participatory democracy of historic proportions. Fewer than 8 percent of the city’s roughly three million enrolled Democrats voted in an election that cost the city $15 million and the four candidates millions more.

It is the ultimate sign of cynicism and contempt when citizens don't bother. The lines in last November's presidential election ran around the block at many election sites, and people have since become enraged that change did not rain down instantaneously from the heavens.

Well, folks, that's because there happen to be other elective offices below the President, and an active engagement on the part of the citizenry is essential. Democracy is a long boring slog, and every election matters. What if you paid your mortgage only once a year, and ignored the other eleven notices? Would it be outrageous when your house got foreclosed?

Why do people cherry pick elections, only engaging with the ones they don't find uninteresting, and then get cynical when they discover that the other 95% of the process (which they've ignored) is broken?

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