November 4, 2012

A Dispatch From Ohio

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On somewhat of a whim, my friend and I decided two days ago that we should pile into my car and drive the eight hours to Columbus, Ohio. After a day spent at The Ohio State University, I have to say this was the best decision we could possibly have made.

Now I know most Cornellians love traveling to the midwest for the weekend to just “get away from it all,” but this trip was a rare working vacation for us. We were here to inspect President Obama’s ground game.

We got to spend time with students and organizers all around campus. Their passion, and commitment to the work they were doing was simply incredible. (Fair notice: we only saw the Obama ground game, no sign of Romney organizers at OSU). Whether it was chalking messages of support across this massive campus, or knocking on door after door, the importance of Ohio is not lost on the students.

Warning: if you get turned off by hopey-changey writing, you might want to skip the next few lines.

Many Cornellians lament the lack of political involvement exhibited by Cornell’s student body, and many more assert that they have little interest in being politically active because their vote doesn’t matter.

New York is not Ohio, it is not a swing state.

So, how are we supposed to get involved in politics if doing so means driving eight hours away to an unfamiliar part of the country? The only way to overcome that sense of political isolation is to realize that politics is not about your personal vote.

Even in a state like Ohio, where your vote “matters,” the fact remains that each person’s individual vote is almost certainly not going to change the election. So why vote at all? Why be politically active?

The truth is, politics was never meant to be about just voting. The word politics partially derives from the latin politicus which roughly means “belonging to the state.”

Whether you are voting for Romney, Obama, or neither, remember that the very nature of you “belonging to the state” involves you in politics.

Voting is one aspect of political participation, but it is not the end all and be all of politics.

I’m not suggesting that everyone ought to drop everything and totally focus on the campaign. It would be great if you want to, before the polls close in the next 40 or so hours, get out there and knock on a door or two, make a phone call for a candidate, or even hop on a bus and meet us in Ohio. If those steps, or even voting itself, are steps you are unwilling to take, at least spend some time in the next day or two reflecting on politics.

Think about how we ought to govern ourselves. Think about how, by nature of our common nationality, we are all bound to each other – whether we like it or not. Then go out there and spread your message. Talk to your friends about politics, learn from them about why they believe what they believe and then challenge your own beliefs.

Think about The Daily Show for a minute, many of us, even those of us who are “nonpolitical” watch The Daily Show. We watch it because it engages us in something that we inherently know is important (politics) in a way that isn’t abrasive or annoying, but rather in a way that’s funny and smart. Instead of leaving politics to those who make it frustrating and tiresome (Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Noah Karr-Kaitin, etc.), we ought to remember that there are ways for us to engage politically that aren’t abrasive – that make political participation interesting and engaging.

A final note, at the risk of vastly altering the tone of this post, I just wanted to add that I have a lot of newfound respect for those of you who chalk really beautiful designs and messages around Cornell’s campus.

If Obama loses this election, it will most likely be due to the fact that my chalk designs around Ohio State look like they were done by an insurgent Romney supporter trying to make Obama supporters look bad with almost comically terrible artistic skills.

Seriously, it’s going to keep me up at night.

Shameless plug: I’ll be appearing on WVBR 93.5 FM from 5 p.m. onward this Tuesday (election day). Call in with questions for me or any of the other awesome panelists and listen live online (link)! Also, follow me on twitter (@Noah_S_KK) as I’ll be live-tweeting the election. I’m also going to try to do a live blog as the results come in, so stay tuned for that.

Original Author: Noah Karr-Kaitin