Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Electoral insults

I wasn't going to vote yesterday, but then the phone rang. It was Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley, and he told me I needed to go to the polls and cast a vote. Of course he hoped I would vote for him to become the next governor of Maryland but, most of all, he wanted me to get out there and do my civic duty. Governor Bob Ehrlich had called the day before as had former President Bill Clinton, and with all the attention, I was starting to feel like the prettiest girl at the dance.

Honestly, does anyone really think that these phone calls work? I don't like the attack ads, the stupid oversized post cards that showed Ehrlich with a golf club or his arm around George Bush or the ones that attempted to make O'Malley look like the dark overlord of the hellish city of Baltimore, but I find the phone calls laughable. The only thing that would make them more enjoyable would be if the name of the person on the recording showed up on my caller ID screen. "Look, honey, it's the governor calling again."

And it's not just the recorded messages. Last week I got an automated call that claimed to be a poll. It started by asking who I was voting for and followed with a series of extremely slanted questions obviously designed to influence my opinion, not just assess it. The final question asked if what I had learned during the call had changed my vote. Interesting "poll."

My favorite call was not from a celebrity but from a candidate for a state office. I can't remember his name, but, in a very grave voice, he told me that he wanted to correct some misinformation that I might have received from his opponent that claimed he supported gay marriage. He then asked me if I had the notes from social studies class because he thought Mrs. Sauerson would be giving a pop quiz tomorrow. Okay, I made that last part up, and I apologize to all middle-school students for insulting their intelligence.

I guess all the advances in technology allow us to find more information than we could ever process as we make our decisions, but they also allow us to be approached, polled and solicited in ways we could never have imagined. Throughout the election season, I tried to listen to both sides and read divergent viewpoints although the extremists on both sides get tiresome pretty quickly. Most of them might as well be recorded voices for the all rational, informed discussion they fail to engender.

Just once, I wish a real person would call, so I could say, "How stupid do you think I am?"

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