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This past week, Michelle Obama sent me an email on behalf of her husband’s re-election campaign. In it, she asked me to join on as a “summer organizer” for the poor, put-upon President. “Barack,” she wrote, “needs you out there this summer.”
She continued, “It’s an amazing experience – one that could change your life while shaping this country for decades to come.” Change again! But it’s the mode of change that was interesting in Michelle’s pitch: “If you take a position as a fellow, you’ll help more people to step up at the local level, where there are so many opportunities to make so much change. You’ll register voters, recruit and train volunteers, run phone banks, have conversations with people on their front porches, and build the relationships that will bring your community together to fight for progress.”
That’s a busy summer. Let’s take these elements one at a time. First, Michelle wants me to help people step up at the local level. She doesn’t really define that. Somehow, I doubt she wants me to give job training that would encourage people to support their families. She probably isn’t interested in me filing LLC papers for folks so they can get a business started. She also doesn’t want me passing the hat for charitable causes or getting socially disorganized kids into church groups that might help them. “Stepping up,” according to Michelle, means shilling for her husband. After four long years, change has come down to getting her husband getting a second term. What kind of change is this? The king in the familiar aphorism, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
But there’s more. I can register voters, too. Now, as a general matter, I’m not much for registering voters. That’s because if people don’t care enough to have registered, I don’t want them voting. It’s not difficult to register to vote – you can do it quickly and easily. It’s your civic duty to figure out how to make yourself eligible for the vote. In fact, you can even walk into a library or post office and pick up a form. That’s part of citizenship. If you haven’t bothered to register, I’m not enthused about your vote cancelling mine out. I’m fine with fewer voters – too many voters already vote based not on the positions of the candidates, but on whether they “seem like a nice guy.” The last thing I want is more ignorant voters.
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