Monday, October 29, 2018

Get Out the Vote. Where are the arts?

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on........................"

The mid-term election is next week.

There seems to be consensus across the political spectrum on one thing:  This may be the most important election of our lives.  It will tell us, and the world, a lot about what kind of a country we want, and the direction in which we are heading.  It will send a message about the role America sees itself playing on the world stage for, at least, the immediate future.  It will tell us a lot about what will happen in the 2020 presidential election.  It will set, for the future, our values and aspirations.  And it will determine where the power lies.

And while the pundits suggest the Democrats will regain control of the House, and Republicans will keep control of the Senate, there is more understanding - after the failure of those same pundits to predict Trump's victory in 2016 - about the races being really too close to definitively say what will happen. Of course, this is the pollsters hedging their bets so they don't look the fools they did last time, but it's a realistic understanding that there are simply too many variables to know for sure what will happen.  The Democrats may win both the House and the Senate.  Or the Republicans may keep control of both.  The chances are pretty good that the Red States will become redder and the Blue States bluer - thus cementing the divide between Americans.   But we don't know for sure what will happen.

That makes this election even more critical.

There are lots of people  - on all points of the political spectrum - who will not vote.  Some have washed their hands to the whole of the political process, believing it doesn't matter who is in power - nothing ever changes.  A pox on both their houses as it were.  There are others who believe a Democratic House and a Republican Senate is just a prescription for more gridlock and more acrimony among waring factions.  Why bother?  They reject, or fail to appreciate, the notion that checks and balances have any benefit to the country.

And there are lots of people who don't vote because they simply don't care; while others find it inconvenient.  Still others will be the victims of attempts to, if not disenfranchise them, then make it very difficult to vote.  Some claim they are too busy.  And often times, inclement weather will keep people from voting.

There is also consensus that whichever side succeeds in turning out their partisans to vote, will likely be victorious.  Trump is busy trying to energize his core base.  The Democrats are trying to rally people of color, poor and young people - who tend to favor them.  There are some signs both sides are succeeding,   But to what extent remains unknown until the votes are actually counted.

So no matter what side you or your tribe are on, it is incumbent to try to get your people to vote.  But historically, Americans do not turn out to vote in huge numbers, particularly in an off year presidential election.  The single most important exercise in democracy - the act of voting - and as a country often we can't even turn out half of those eligible.  Unfortunately,  studies show that efforts to get out the vote, largely fail, and that it isn't easy to increase voter turnout.  Even a record turnout would still leave a huge percentage of eligible voters who didn't vote.

Yet while there is no surefire, proven strategy or tactic to get your people to the polls, it seems axiomatically suicidal not to try.

Clearly we all have a stake in this election.  Not just for what it might mean for our self-interest as the nonprofit arts, but for a thousand impacts it will have on the nation - for generations to come.  So we should be trying to get out the vote, but where is the effort from our sector to do that?  Where are the iconic posters touting the need to show up on voting day?  Where are the stories included in our emails and newsletters, on our websites, and in our programs and on flyers?  Where are the announcements from the stage or the podium?  Where are the songs or poetry urging voters to vote? We talk so much about collaborating within the community on social justice issues - where then are those joint efforts to implore, beg, cajole, guilt or otherwise try to influence potential voters to show up?

Maybe I live in a cocoon, but I try to stay abreast of what is going on in the field, and I can't find much evidence that the arts are doing anything to get out the vote.  Why not?  I don't get it.  Perhaps I'm just blind to lots of energy in this area.  If so, I'm happy to be corrected.  But if I'm right, and we just aren't doing much to get out the vote, then shame on us.  Really.

I hope any of you who might be reading this can pledge to get at least one person to go vote; one person who might not be planning to vote.  Somehow.

I did see a poster online that said this:  "A FAILURE TO VOTE ISN'T REBELLION.  IT'S SURRENDER."

The thing the last election showed us is that every vote does count, and it doesn't take that many to seal an election one way or the other.

Good luck America.

Vote.  Please.

Don't Quit