Friday, September 17, 2004

Don't make P. Diddy beg; vote, you kids



By Maggie Downs
Enquirer staff writer

Click here to e-mail Maggie Downs
The good news is that for the next couple months, the rest of the country won't look at Ohio as just another Midwestern mass of cornfields. We'll no longer be shrugged off as simply the homeland of Devo. We'll stop being confused with the potato state.

No, we're a swing state now.

That means, as far as the election goes, Ohio is just about as integral as John Kerry and George W. Bush.

So I'm encouraged by things like Operation Ohio, a literati effort to motivate young'uns to vote.

If you're a college student in Ohio under the age of 25 and will be a first-time voter, you can register to receive a phone call from one of your favorite writers. (See www.mcsweeneys.net for details.)

Authors include Tobias Wolff, Michael Chabon, ZZ Packer, Dave Eggers, Ann Cummins, Glen David Gold, Gabe Hudson, Aimee Bender, Julie Orringer, Vendela Vida, Jim Shepard, Andrew Sean Greer and many more.

On Nov. 2, a real live writer will call and remind you to vote.

Several of those contemporary writers will also be doing readings and voter registrations at Ohio State University, Oberlin College and Cleveland State University.

The idea is the brainchild of the San Francisco-based Stephen Elliot. His book Looking Forward to It, due to be released soon, is about coming to terms with the American electoral process.

Operation Ohio is a great idea. But I wonder what in the heck will finally get people to vote.

Ben Affleck, P. Diddy and a slew of others are already all over MTV saying voting is cool. Fo' shizzle.

Rock the Vote flaunts celebrities like Linkin Park and Lindsey Lohan in front of impressionable young voters in an effort to get them to the polls.

"Smackdown Your Vote!" is the World Wrestling Entertainment's stab at getting the brawling type involved in politics.

And VoterVirgin.com has a vision of "a gazillion new voters in 2004." Because "everybody's doin' it in '04," the site happily proclaims.

There's more. The New Voters Project, Music for America, the New Democratic Majority, Driving Votes, the Committee to Redefeat the President and one group whose name is unprintable by this paper's standards are all striving to get young people involved in the election.

Still, the number of young voters has been on a constant decline since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, participation plummeted from 43.4 percent in 1972 to 28.7 percent in 2000. Overall voter participation has dropped also.

It's sad that so many people have to be prodded into voting in a presidential election. Countless volunteers are already offering concerts, readings, voter registration parties and more. What more is it going to take?

Don't make P. Diddy beg.

It's not just voting either. I see an entire unsettling new movement of slackerhood, which brings back memories of 1992.

A perfect example of this is the Shut It Down protest during the recent Republican National Convention. The effort encouraged all New York actors, musicians, hotel staff, retail workers and more to call in sick during the convention. The goal was to make everything totally inconvenient for the suits.

True, the idea is hilarious. But seriously, when did inaction become action? Are we so lazy that we protest by doing absolutely nothing at all?

There's another movement called Mass Refusal, which urges those who are angry about the war in Iraq to - get this - not vote. Seriously. They want you to show those rich, silly politicians who's boss by not voting them out of office. Take THAT, W.

Complaining when nobody can hear you is worthless. If these people really want to make a point about the war, they should file a class action lawsuit against a certain president for involuntary manslaughter. It's likely to be more effective, and they would get better publicity.

For the rest of us, the very best way to make change in the world is to get out to the polls on Nov. 2.

Tell 'em Dave Eggers sent you.

E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com




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