The Democrats are trying to buy my vote -- literally -- and I think it might have worked.
It all started out so innocently. A phone call from a marketing group that I have worked for previously doing awesome things like taste-testing pizza and craptastic things like testing out maxi pads (oh yes I did!) in exchange for free product and money, told me about a "political focus group" in my area. I qualified and so showed up at the appointed hotel ballroom at the specified time wearing my most responsible looking outfit (I own exactly one). Once there, me and about one hundred other people -- all registered voters -- were wined and dined on a free buffet that I have not seen the like since Vegas. Afterward we were all ushered into a conference room and tortured with 2 hours of political ads. By that point dinner was sitting heavy in my stomach and all I wanted to do was sleep. But it quickly became apparent which party had bought me dinner and they weren't going to let me go with a peck on the cheek and a promise to call "sometime."
And so I sat. And watched. And twiddled a little dial that ranged from I-want-to-hang-you-in-effigy hatred (popular this season apparently) to I'm-naming-my-next-baby-after-you love. I got sloppy and a little punchy -- I was sitting next to a very entertaining elderly gentleman -- and swung my dial a little too wildly, thus earning me a spot on the special inquisition panel. Most of the guests were dismissed after the ad watching/dial twiddling/eye poking portion of the evening. But myself and about 10 others were asked to stay and talk. We got to talk about all the candidates -- whether we saw ads for them or not -- and the issues and our families and anything and everything else that the moderator deemed remotely relevant.
It was amazing! Never before had anyone cared about my political opinions. And I do have lots of them. But these people were rapt. They hung on my every word. Took notes. Recorded me. There was even The Man behind a one-way mirror, observing. For a girl who has got most of her election coverage from SNL, this was also an eye opening experience into the nuances of politics. Sure they were using me. But they wanted me. And that felt powerful.
Political power is not something I am accustomed to. Back when I turned 18, I first registered to vote as an Independent, not realizing that that is an actual political party rather than a license to vote willy nilly. And if there is one word to describe my voting habits it's "random" -- the only constant is that I always vote. The fact that I swing back and forth between conservative and liberal with such ease irritates my very closest friends and sends strangers into apoplexy. Why can't I just pick a party and/or ideology and stick to it? Can't I see that we are always right and they are always wrong?
Here's the thing: nobody is right. Or, rather, they"re all right. No candidate has all the answers. They all lie. And yet, I also believe they all want to help this country. And I definitely think they know things that they're not telling me. So I've campaigned for Ralph Nader. I listened to Ron Paul's stump speeches. I've cheered on both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. And did so without feeling like a hypocrite. I really liked Mitt Romney. I adore Barack Obama. Part of me wishes Colin Powell would have run or even Condoleeza Rice as they both seem so competent and calm. Can I write in McCain's son? He amuses me.
The surest way to get me to not vote for your candidate is to spam me with political e-mails filled with half-truths, hyperbole and Armageddon. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) this year I've been spammed equally by acquaintances of both political sects and so I'm still dithering. But someone did buy me dinner. Although it remains to be seen how good a listener they truly are...