Where was the end when we needed it?

After all of the campaigning, all of the political posturing, all of the polling and remarkably reality-defying punditry, all of the… noise, the election finally happened. In its wake, we saw the worst of people on social media. I counted a few particularly rogue Facebook statuses that had been deleted by Wednesday. A handful of dumb students reflected poorly on the University of Mississippi.

The whole thing makes us crazy. But credit Governor Romney and President Obama, because perhaps the greatest moments of a multi-year campaign came at its end.

This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation […] Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work, and we citizens also have to rise to occasion […] [W]e look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics. – Mitt Romney, Concession

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

And together with your help and God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth. – Barack Obama, Acceptance

How gracious in defeat was the governor? How re-energized and inspiring was the president? With the burden of the campaign finally removed from each man’s shoulders, we saw what we had been looking for the entire time. In the fog of war, divide and conquer was the master plan, when we the people were looking for sense and civility all along.

Calls for unity. Calls for effort from citizen and servant alike. Calls for prayer. The invocation of God, for one night, not a political province of the right but a hope for one nation.

Maybe it won’t last. Probably it won’t last. But on the night when so many Democrats were gloating and so many Republicans were forecasting the fall of Rome, Mitt Romney’s campaign website was streaming Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in a simple gesture of solidarity. And so, on Election Night, this disaffected voter watched two men emerge from battle, wondering where philosophies like these were one week earlier, and what will have happened to them one week later.

Voting shouldn’t feel like this

Go vote. It’s a right and a privilege, and as I found out this year, there are a heckuva lot of people involved in making elections work.

For the first time in my life, I voted absentee. Barely. In early October, I requested my ballot from my home county circuit clerk’s office, only to see the weeks pass without a ballot arriving. When communication with the office failed, I sought the aid of my secretary of state’s election division to remind the folks in my county to do their job.

It was a mess of phone calls, record keeping, and legal actions. I was thankful for the good I saw in public servants – I must have gotten aid from five or six different people in the S.O.S.’s office, many of whom called me. Yet, the well-documented incompetence of one county’s election infrastructure seemed too much to overcome in time to exercise my right to vote.

This was going to a blog post about voter disenfranchisement, a system that failed its displaced constituency. Fortunately, the cogs and gears fell into place, and the system came through for me without a moment to spare.

So it seems my ballot will be among those counted this year. And it should feel better than ever before. This time, it took real time and effort – to make the calls, to fill out the paperwork, to find the notary, to beat the deadline. This time, my vote came with hardship. This time, I valued the notion of our representative democracy and what it meant to have a voice.

It should feel better than ever before. But it didn’t.

Continue reading “Voting shouldn’t feel like this”

[Clickworthy] Horseraces and tail wagging: How do you like your election coverage?

The Fourth Estate improved in its role as informer and vetter in the 2012 Republican primary, but it continued to bog itself down in political minutia and reflection of public sentiment, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study found that 64% of primary coverage was devoted to what the researchers deemed “strategy,” a term inclusive of public opinion polls, momentum, advertising, and fundraising – the so-called “horserace” aspect of an election. The remaining coverage was split among the candidates’ personal background (12%), position on domestic issues (9%), existing public record (6%), position on foreign issues (1%), and other uncategorized topics (6%).

It may seem a disservice that so little of the newshole was devoted to informing the electorate about the candidates, but the PEJ was quick to point out what an improvement it was over 2008. The 28% of “vetting” coverage was roughly double the amount candidates received in the 2008 Republican (11%) and Democratic (15%) primaries.

The variations of these primaries is worth considering. The 2008 Republican primary was much different than 2012. John McCain cemented his nomination on Super Tuesday, though one could argue it came even sooner than that. Every legitimate candidate but one (Mike Huckabee) had dropped out by early February. Meanwhile, the 2008 Democratic primary carried on even longer than this year’s GOP battle – a two-person contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that led most of us to learn for the first time what “superdelegates” were. The validity of coverage comparisons between the two primary years might indeed be acceptable then, considering the 2012 Republican primary would fit snugly between the two extremes of 2008.

The Pew study argued that while the 2012 battle may have lasted until mid-April, media coverage established the endpoint on February 29 – a day, ironically enough, that only occurs in an American presidential election year. Or, more relevantly, the day after Mitt Romney won Arizona and his native state of Michigan – a must-win for his blue-collar challenger, Rick Santorum.

Continue reading “[Clickworthy] Horseraces and tail wagging: How do you like your election coverage?”

Gingrich, Romney, Santorum visit Mississippi, vie for hotly contested Southern delegates

Mississippi rarely receives much attention from candidates in presidential elections. After all, there’s usually little doubt as to the inclinations of the most conservative state in the union. Furthermore, with its primary scheduled after Super Tuesday, party nominees usually have been all but officially accepted by the time the Magnolia State rolls around.

2012 is different. While Mitt Romney is a clear frontrunner in the Republican primary, he still faces three opponents, one of whom needs Mississippi (and Alabama) to clearly delineate himself from his rivals, and one of whom needs Mississippi (and Alabama) to preserve any credibility as to why he is still in the race. That’s why Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich all visited Mississippi the week prior to the primary.

All three men made stops in Jackson. I managed to see two of them in person – Santorum and Romney – while collecting a handful of reliable reports on the Gingrich events. As polls show a tight race going into the primary, each candidate used a different strategy to court voters.

Continue reading “Gingrich, Romney, Santorum visit Mississippi, vie for hotly contested Southern delegates”

GOP Presidential Candidates Visit Mississippi

Never in my lifetime can I recall so many campaign buses rolling into Jackson, Miss. Not just for those $2,000 plate lunches, either – for honest-to-goodness, down home, public rallies.

Naturally, I’m game.

The blog already attended Rick Santorum’s rally at the Ag Museum Wednesday night. Tomorrow, Newt Gingrich will be making the rounds, while the frontrunner, Mitt Romney, makes his appearance on Friday. Sadly, no word of a visit from the Ron Paul team.

Keep an eye on the Twitter page (@voiceofD) for live updates as I try to catch as many of these events as I can. A full blog post recapping the candidates’ strategies, the public’s reactions, and an attempt to project the Mississippi primary will come over the weekend.

Magnolia State politicos, enjoy the moment. We don’t get many.