Happy Thursday! Yesterday we introduced our crash course on the Eurovision Song Contest. Today’s installment: the politics of Eurovision.
Each participating country has 12 votes to spend in the final round, whether or not they make it in themselves. Half of those 12 votes comes from a jury, and the other half comes from phone voting within the country. The scoring system is very confusing, but maximum score a country can award is all 12 of its votes — the famous “douze points.”
These voting patterns make the contest very interesting from a geopolitical perspective. Big rival countries often cancel out each other’s successes, while small neighboring countries tend to make informal alliances, which may be why tiny Azerbaijan won in 2011. (Example of a stable voting alliance: Cyprus has always given its 12 points to Greece, and will continue to do so until it sinks into the Mediterranean.)
Entries can also reflect countries’ internal political debates. While the overwhelming majority of winners perform in gloriously accented English in order to appeal to the broadest possible audience, France has almost always submitted its entry in French, with the recent exception of the minority Corsican language. Spain, which has much more controversy over minority languages and cultures, has never had a contestant perform in a language other than Spanish. This year it’s offering “Contigo hasta el final” by Asturian band El sueño de Morfeo, which features some very distinctively northwestern Iberian bagpipes. For more on language, politics, and culture in Eurovision, check out this 2010 New Yorker essay by Anthony Lane.
The winning country hosts the contest the following year. This led to some uncomfortable crackdowns on dissenters in Azerbaijan last year to keep the show running smoothly, though we’re not expecting anything like that in Sweden this year. Check back tomorrow for more Eurovision coverage!
A country that prides itself so aggressively on its democracy cannot annex an area and leave its population in the dust and think it can get away with it. And I cannot happily go to the polls and vote for a party – even if there is a party I really do believe in – because it feels like a sham. And I am angry that it feels like a sham. I am angry that I couldn’t feel good about voting today and that I was not capable of feeling empowered by my civil rights.
Israeli journalist Mairav Zonszein, explaining why she let a disenfranchised woman from East Jerusalem decide her vote in the recent Israeli election. More coverage of the vote-swap initiative by the BBC is here.
In case you need a catch-up: Israel had some really intense parliamentary elections on Tuesday! The upstart Yesh Atid party (“There is a Future,” which Goldberg points out is a very Jewish sentiment) winning the “kingmaker” second-most-powerful position in the Knesset. While many are tempted to describe the outcome as a victory for the Israeli center, Michael Koplow urges caution, saying that many other so-called centrist parties fared poorly.
Just because the election is over doesn’t mean we can stop caring about elections, civic duty, and related shenanigans.
Before November 6, The Atlantic ran a piece warning of an oncoming storm in the world of electronic voting. Andrew Cohen points to a surprising record of inconsistencies in electronic voting’s short histories, supplemented with Victoria Collier’s alarming report:
As recently as September 2011, a team at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory hacked into one of Diebold’s old Accuvote touchscreen systems. Their report asserted that anyone with $26 in parts and an eighth-grade science education would be able to manipulate the outcome of an election.
Whether this was pre-election fearmongering is a question to debate, but there’s no doubt it’s rather alarming. Constant vigilance, Wonkistan! Beware eighth-grade science nerds with allowances!
It is the eve of election day in the United States, Wonkistan! We’ve had a great discussion on voting and civics over the past few months, so we thought we would round up our favorite videos, articles, and links in preparation of the big day.
You’ll also see our latest episode, “Voting (Or Not!)” embedded above. Ivan talks with his friend Andrew, who is not voting this year, about his decision and the philosophies informing it. We contrast Andrew’s position to Hank Green’s “You. Must. Vote.” video, which in our opinion oversimplifies the many options available to voters. Andrew argues that not voting is an acceptable and even a responsible choice, and we want to give you a chance to hear his reasoning.
Somewhere around two percent of voters are ostensibly still undecided about who they’ll be voting for in the Presidential election. These people are often ridiculed, because it’s easy to make fun of a small minority, but many voters (including myself) are balancing competing interests and also…
Thanks for reminding us of tonight’s third-party debate, Catherine! The debate, which takes place at 9:00 Eastern, is the first of two debates being sponsored by Free and Equal Elections, and featuring the Green Party’s Jill Stein, the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, the Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode, and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson.
You can watch it on AJE or C-SPAN, as well as the website of Free and Equal Elections. Larry King will be moderating. LARRY KING.
As always, we’ll be live-tweeting the debate using #banter2012. Things got pretty wild last night, so we’d tune in if we were you!
One of the things that has never clicked with me about Breton and surrealism is its investment in political discourse. Granted, it posits poetry as political discourse, even as this is an absurd proposition. What clicked for me (again) this morning is that my attraction to surrealism is part and parcel of my ambivalent political attitude. (Or is my attitude about politics ambivalent because of surrealism?)
I have never voted and have no intention to. The easy explanation is that it makes no pragmatic or moral sense to me. What’s at stake is vastly overstated. The presidential election will make little concrete difference largely because of the debilitating effect of the two-party system. In fact, by voting in the context of a two party system, one is feeding the paralysis that makes change practically impossible.
But the larger issue is philosophical, metacognitive, existential—political language (by definition) assigns positive or negative value to everything that comes within its reach. And American politics has a disgustingly far reach and an insatiable appetite.
Perhaps the most attractive thing about surrealism is its resistance to political interpretation—because it resists moral and even psychological value judgements and distances the reader from familiar frames of references, and thus evaluation. In the best of surrealist praxis there is a resilient neutrality that vigilantly counteracts the all-consuming passion for moral-political categorization. It is human to seek justice and goodness, but justice also entails an obligation to treat the world with integrity, to leave unspoken what cannot be said: “What we cannot speak of, we must pass over in silence.” —or, at least, to leave open what cannot be closed, complex what cannot be made simple. The banality of political rhetoric comes from the inadequacy with which it speaks of experience. Surrealism remains a most prescient counter-example, both in its radical presentation of the world and its complex treatment of consciousness.
We tried to excerpt this post, but every word that the Surrealist poet behind the Uut Poetry blog has to say about voting is worth your time. Not only does he raise questions about the two-party system and noncompliance, he connects his deliberate political quietism to his surrealist aesthetics. Gosh, we like you.
Friend of the show hussiens (Peng1TV / @hussiens) vlogs as he fills out his absentee ballot, which we totally think should become a video blog Thing.
Hussien also objects to the common adage that you ought to vote if you are eligible, even if you are unhappy with your choices. “Trying to appeal to people who generally don’t vote,” he says, is a useful check for politicians who would otherwise focus their campaigning on the differences between habitual voters. In other words, acknowledging and trying to serve an engaged but non-voting population might encourage politicians to do better.
We just loved Hussien’s video, especially since we are working on an election episode addressing these very concerns. We encourage others of you to add your voices to the conversation!
The Economist’s “Lexington” columnist checks in with the Old Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Many of them object to being photographed, which puts them at odds with the state’s new voter ID law. A fine exploration of the Amish stance on local politics (independent schools) and national issues (Obamacare, agricultural policies).
Our favorite line: “Though I have only met a handful of Amish, they have all been good at giving the impression that they find non-Amish visitors rather comical.”
I find Obama likable when I see him on TV. He is a caring husband and father, a thoughtful speaker, and possessed of an inspirational biography. On stage, as he smiles into the camera, using words to evoke some of the best sentiments within us, it’s hard to believe certain facts about him:
Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children…
Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens…
Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security.
Now, at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, David Watkins responds that the so-called “voting as moral approval/endorsement” is deeply flawed:
The moral purpose of democracy is not to keep my hands clean and feel good about myself, no matter how much politicians and other demagogues claim otherwise. The moral purpose of democracy is the reduction of abusive power in the world. Unfortunately there’s a lot of it, and democracy’s pretty clearly an insufficient tool to address it, but that’s no reason not to use the tool, when and where you can.
Americans (and voters elsewhere), what does your vote mean to you? Do you find yourself voting against the greater evil, or do you see your vote as a moral endorsement of a candidate, for whose actions in office, if elected, you are partly responsible? Do you have electoral dealbreakers? Is choosing not to vote justifiable?
Note: We’re working on turning this conversation into a pre-election episode, so we’d welcome your comments. Wonkistan, after all, is more than Amanda and Ivan; it’s all of us.
When you aren’t registered, it seems overwhelming. It seems like it isn’t worth it. I remember that feeling from 1996. But it’s not that hard, and few things feel better. It’s worth it. Get registered.
Personal opinions regarding the usefulness of voting aside, you should be able to vote if you want to. Thanks for the signal boost, John!