Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Useful Idiots

Another Democratic loyalist has gone on Twitter to rant about the evil "friends" who, "bragging about how at least they were smart enough not to vote for Hillary, voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnston."  She's the "Mayor of Zero F**Ksville" (asterisks sic) and a "2-Time NYT Bestselling Author," so you know she's not only really cool, she's really smart.  I did a little ranting myself in reply, and remembered something I left out out of my most recent post about such people.

During the twenty-five years I ran the GLB Speakers Bureau in Bloomington, people often failed to show up for panels they'd signed on to do.  I found that it helped if I sent out email at the beginning of each week to remind them: not individually, but a list of the week's panels with the names of those who were scheduled to speak.  This helped, though it didn't solve the problem entirely.  I'm not sure what would have, short of breaking down their doors and carrying them bodily to the location.  Speakers Bureau is an all-volunteer organization, including me as the coordinator, so the most I could do was remove from the mailing list those people who failed to show up too often.

But one of our volunteers, a woman about my age, objected even to the reminder messages.  Adults should honor their commitments, she declared, without having to be coddled or cajoled.  I'm not sure what she had in mind -- kick them off the mailing list the first time they didn't show?  To some extent I agreed with her, but as I saw it my first priority was not to try to force the volunteers to grow up, it was to do what I could to ensure that speakers showed up where and when we'd promised they would.  Since we didn't pay the volunteers, and were asking them to give their time (admittedly for a pleasant task, that of speaking about their lives in public), I believed a certain amount of coddling, even indulgence, wasn't out of line.  It's worth noting that this woman had some Native American ancestry, and was proud of what she saw as Indians' cultural superiority over deracinated whites; yet her position on this matter seemed to be rooted in Western Enlightenment individualism, with some Puritan punitiveness laid on for spice.

The analogy I'm drawing here will be evident, I hope.  As I wrote before, I agree that voting is a citizen's duty, one I carry out myself; but there are no direct consequences for not voting, and I'm not sure there ought to be.  But we also need a "None of the Above" option on the ballots, with consequences for the candidates if they can't beat NOTA at the polls.  In the meantime, it's reasonable to remember that voters are volunteers, even if that means voluntarily carrying out a duty.  And none of these frothers have shown me any reason to believe that berating the voters will win them over.  Just on general principles, I would expect it to have the opposite effect.  If you're not feeling particularly motivated to go to the polls, and some crank is calling you names for not loving their crummy candidate, why not just stay home?

For that matter, I thought the parties recognized this.  A lot of their volunteer work is aimed at making it easier to vote, recognizing that there are barriers.  This is not the airy-fairy fantasy of an aging hippie, it's what the parties actually do.   Do they still offer voters rides to the polls, or is that coddling and spoiling them, when they should act like adults and crawl on their hands and knees to the polling place, grateful to cast their vote for whatever corrupt hack the party leadership has in its wisdom placed on the ballot?

So I wonder who appointed people like Kathy Griffin and Stonekettle the Tough Love enforcers of the Democratic Party.  Are they useful idiots for Trump?  Or are they secretly, as I suggested sarcastically in a reply to Griffin this morning, being paid by Putin to depress Democratic turnout?  It's one thing to be uninspiring, and quite another to actively drive people away from the party.