Thursday, May 08, 2008

Indiana Primary Make Us Feel Special

Indiana Primary Make Us Feel Special
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

I did my civic duty with great pride on Tuesday when I voted in Indiana's primary election. I even wore the little sticker they gave to all the voters.

"I vote, I count," said my little symbol of adhesive activism. However, it was poorly designed, using one big "I," next to the words "vote" and "count."

It looked like "I vote count," so I had to explain to everyone what it meant.

"I vote, I no design good."

Mind you, this wasn't any ordinary Indiana primary. This one was special. It was a presidential primary. And this time, it counted.

Indiana, which is barely a blip on America's electoral radar, finally made the national news for something other than corn, auto racing, or the 2006 Super Bowl Champions (nyah nyah Chicago!)

Thanks to the nation's undecided and wishy-washy, the Democratic presidential primary has extended well into May, two months past its typical expiration date. All other recent presidential primaries, with the exception of the last season of West Wing, are usually decided by the end of February, mid-March tops.

Not this time. Because Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have such strident supporters, there wasn't a clear candidate by the middle of April, which thrust Indiana's primary voters squarely into the national spotlight.

We're not used to that. We're Hoosiers, after all. We prefer to work behind the scenes, and stay out of the limelight. Meanwhile the news media are on a first name basis with the citizens of New Hampshire and Iowa.

But we enjoyed it. Being part of the nation's political conversation. The excited thrill of hearing "Indiana" on national news without also hearing the words "Pacers," "legal troubles," "strip club," and "shots were fired."

We were important. No longer slapped with the "foregone conclusion" label, we would influence presidential politics for the first time since anyone in our state can remember. The media wanted to know where we stood on the issues and who we were going to vote for. Flyers were crammed into our mailboxes, pollsters wanted our opinions, and Hillary's campaign called my house three times.

So we got used to all the strangers with cameras and microphones. It soon became commonplace to see national news trucks drive by, or to be asked deeply personal questions by men and women with microphones and video cameras.

One day, I walked into one of my favorite coffee shops, and was nearly run over by a news crew I didn't recognize.

"Who was that?" I asked the barista.

"That was the CBS Evening News," she said. "They're doing 'man on the street' interviews and wanted to talk to some of our customers."

"Oh," was all I could say, as if being bowled over by out-of-town newsies was an everyday occurrence.

In fact, most of my fellow Hoosiers became jaded and cynical about the media. Or at least we pretended to. We pretended that we didn't want to be on the news. We pretended we were political celebrities used to being in the national spotlight, like those prima donnas in New Hampshire and Iowa. But just like guys who suck in their guts whenever an attractive woman walks by, we checked our hair whenever we saw a TV camera.

But it's all over now. It's already two days after our primary, and we miss the action.

"Wait, wait!" we shouted to the departing news crews, who were on the road to Kentucky and West Virginia. "Wait, we have more to say!"

It was too late. They left as soon as the polls closed, without even a cuddle or a kiss goodbye.

"Look, uh, we have to go," they mumbled. "We have a meeting on the other side of the country in the morning, and traffic is crazy. We'll call you later."

And that was it. No calls, no emails, no promises to hook up in November. Just a memory of the month when we felt special and wanted.

Now we've had a taste of that special treatment, and we want more. We want what New Hampshire and Iowa have. We're tired of being America's Jan Brady. We want to be Marcia -- the cool Marcia, not the Marcia that got hit in the nose with a football. We want the same special treatment the early primary states get.

So I'm urging our state political parties to move the dates of our primaries. Nothing too early, because we don't want to seem easy.

February is fine. Even March would be good. But bring the spotlight back to our state.

Because New Mexico keeps calling us names behind our backs, and we want to show them up.

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