Wednesday, April 18, 2012

4 things I learned about elections from Lent Madness

Lent Madness was a much better spiritual discipline than I had imagined.  After a week of being aggravated at the stupidity of people who didn't vote for the saints I thought should move forward, I learned to laugh at myself because--hello!--this doesn't actually count for anything.  Except the glory of the Golden Halo, of course.

And so I started to watch with some fascination what kinds of things seemed to lead to one saint's victory over another.  It wasn't always clear, but there were a few things that seem like practical tidbits as we enter into the slavering maw of a presidential election year.

1. You can't change votes that are already cast.  Over and over, I saw people writing agonized comments wondering how on earth more people could vote for that other saint than the saint of their choosing.  Well, water under the bridge, people. You may never know why, but it also doesn't matter.  Those votes are already in! Moving on.

2. It is easier to recruit new voters than to persuade current voters (who may have already decided).  With Lent Madness this was particularly stark.  All due credit to Lent Madness for drawing a couple of thousand votes each day--but that's still only a couple of thousand votes out of a much, much larger potential pool. If you're only advocating among the faithful voters, boy are you missing a huge opportunity.

3. People are partisan, so find a way to make your team their team.  Emma of Hawaii's triumphant march to the finals was an excellent example of this.  The "of Hawaii" part was important as the Hawaiian vote turned the tide on several apparent shoo-ins. Big Pineapple or no, Emma got votes for being Hawaiian--as well as being a worthy saint.

4. People vote for weird reasons.  I know I did.  I voted for Jerome because I liked the lion puppet. I would have voted for Enmegahbowh because of his awesome wife, had I not been the writer for David Oakerhater (I voted for St. E. in the next round). I voted for some saints because I liked one write-up over another, with nothing to do with the saint at all! People voted because they liked the name, or because their saint day was their birthday, or because the icon was cool.

Are we "voting against our interests"? Maybe, but we have our reasons. I can tell you one thing that didn't help, though, is being told I was voting the wrong way.  It would just get my back up. Or shrug and say, "You don't understand."

Lent Madness made clear to me that if I want to make a difference in the November elections, I shouldn't bother arguing with people whose minds are made up. Instead, I should look for the pockets of people who have a strong interest in one thing or another, make the case why my candidate is their candidate, and make sure they are able to vote. And then let it go, knowing that people do what they do. People. That's democracy for you.

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