Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Apathy rules on election day

3 comments

I was looking forward to lots of things during my week in New York.

I wanted to see a New York Knicks basketball game at Madison Square Garden; I couldn't wait to see a huge contingent of friends and fellow runners complete the New York Marathon; and I had imagined that being in The Big Apple during the American presidential elections would be a blast.

Well, the Knicks game happened and that was fun. But as you probably know, the marathon was cancelled after public criticism of the huge resources that would need to be poured into it at a time when so many New Yorkers were living in desperate conditions in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Given that so many hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers had more pressing concerns, perhaps that's why the election barely registered in New York City.

A couple of street hawkers were selling Obama badges and a man was yelling to anyone who would listen to him on 5th Avenue that Obama was a blight against humanity, a criminal and ungodly, but nobody appeared to be giving him the time of day.

The Rockefeller Center ice rink had been taken over by NBC, as is its custom, and an electoral map of the United States had been etched on to the ice.

On election day, as the states were called, they were coloured red or blue depending on the winner.

CNN, though, won for the most spectacular display - the upper floors of the Empire State Building were coloured in red, white and blue and as the results came in, an LED meter would change to the appropriate solid colour.

But that was showboating by the giant news channels who lived and breathed the election in the week we were there. CNN, NBC and Fox News gave it blanket coverage, interviewing analysts and former politicians 24 hours a day.

Of course, the pundits couldn't have got it more wrong. All the ones I saw were predicting a tight race and suggesting the election might come down to just one state - Ohio - but the reality was President Barack Obama romped home.

However, if you were only watching the local New York television news channel, you wouldn't have known there was a vote for president taking place in the next few days. They were totally focused on giving residents information about road closures, where those without shelter or power could go for assistance and weather forecasts.

We visited a huge shopping mecca an hour's drive north of New York on the day of the election and at the Levi's store, I talked to two young men with artfully constructed hair and gauged ears (those wonderfully unusual stretched piercings of the earlobe) who called me dude. As I passed the jeans over the counter to them, one of them said to me "Obama today, dude" and the two high-fived.

"Did you vote? " I asked.

"Dude, have you read our Constitution?" said the blonde one. "There's no point in us voting. Our votes don't make any difference."

"But that's not what the pundits are saying," I remonstrated. "They're saying it's going to be too close to call and that every vote will count."

"Nah, that's what they say," said Blue Eyes, "but we know that our votes won't mean anything."

They put the Levi's in a bag (two pairs for 40 bucks, just saying) and I walked away feeling sad that they felt so disenfranchised.

The waiters and waitresses at our hotel, the people we met in the cafes, the shop assistants - all of them looked at me blankly when I asked them about the election and the general response from them was a 'waddayagunnado' shrug-of-the-shoulders disinterest.

Maybe it was just New York. Maybe there were posters and banners and bunting in other states or cities.

But it seemed a shame that there was so little passion about the election and so little interest in participating in a proudly democratic nation.

- Herald on Sunday

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 31 Aug 2014 16:28:46 Processing Time: 475ms