When I first read about "Remember Your First Time?" -- a new ad campaign aimed at getting more single American women to vote -- I rolled my eyes.
"Oh, ha-ha," I thought about the double-entendre, "Is the way to my head really through my ...?" I couldn't imagine how ads that invoke the memory of virgin sex (and all the baggage that may come with it - yeah, that first time) could help change the fact that 20 million single American women didn't show up at the polls in Election 2004. Boy was I wrong.
The Women's Voices, Women Vote campaigns are fantastic. The videos are slick, well-produced and smart. The sexy headliner features well-known actors, from the venerable Tyne Daly to hotter-than-snot Rosario Dawson "mmmming" their way through reminiscences of their "first time" - in the ballot box, that is. I didn't feel patronized by their tone or remotely like some creepy guy dreamed this up and was seriously loving watching Regina King through the camera. In fact, I cringed very little, although Angie Harmon does lay it on a bit thick.
But while the sexy little number will doubtless get these public service announcements on the air (half the battle, natch) and women talking, this video is not my favorite. The short called "Dreams" gets my vote -- and damned if the last line didn't get me blinking hard at my computer. Go on - play the link above if you haven't already. That's right, I nearly cried when they eyed the camera said, "We don't have to dream about the future: We can wake up and vote for it." I'm losing it, I thought - then Romi LaSally at The Huffington Post emailed me Cooper Munroe's post and I saw that I wasn't the only one. The same line cracked her like an egg, too.
Why? Because I don't know a single American woman -- or a single single American woman in charge of her own household -- who isn't dreaming of a better future, and deeply concerned the state of the direction of our country today, be they self-identified Republicans, Democrats. Progressives, Conservatives, Libertarians, or Green.
Why, then, if we're running our own lives, paying for our own healthcare and taxes and seriously worrying about our retirements, did 20 million single women stay away from the polls in 2004? The answers provided by the WVWV research team resonate. Lead by the formidable Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, the team conducted targeted focus groups on women (including oversampling for Hispanics) in two states and learned that:
"Despite immense dissatisfaction with direction of the country, unmarried women still under-participate in elections, particularly in off-year issues. Many women on their own see politics as irrelevant to their lives as political leaders simply do not address their issues, while others lack the time to learn about the issues and candidates; both contribute to depressed turnout among unmarried women. ...[U]nmarried women are so cynical about politics and political candidates, in particularly, they are loathe to believe or rely on any political ad they see in passing on television. They tend to dismiss this information as biased or confusing. These feelings are only confirmed when they see that politicians do not follow through with their promises or leave them out of the conversation. When the women we spoke to do actively seek out information, many of them rely on the Internet - particularly if they are younger or have a job where they are online. The notion is that they can collect information from many sources, weigh the competing views and come to their own decision about a particular issue or political choice. While it is not clear if this research process actually occurs, it is important to note that the primary issue is that these women do not believe they can trust the media - the primary source of political information in our current political environment - to tell the truth about much of anything." (I deleted liberally; read the entire PDF here.)
Ah. Disenfranchised by spin, working hard for our money, utterly ignored by candidates and lacking a balanced source of information, our single women voters tune out and go back to taking care of our immediate circle. That I can believe.
But that complaint is, I hope, will become increasingly outdated. Today the Web offers terrific, non-partisan sources of voter information that allow users to do an end-run around newscycles that spend their time calling Beltway horseraces and pitting op-ed versus op-ed. Here's where I turn for the best non-partisan facts about politics online:
• League of Women Voters Online Voter Registration (all you need to know is your zipcode and your state) and non-partisan Voters' Guides and Candidate Information (unfortunately not every state is listed)
• Factcheck.org for terrific, nonpartisan research into the latest headlines and campaign ads.
• National Women's Law Center Election 2006: Candidates & Information database to research which initiatives, propositions and political offices up for a vote in your state. Note: This site has one of the most comprehensive databases I've seen, but their analyses of each reflect a progressive agenda.
I'll keep saying it: It's an underreported fact that American women are the voting majority and have been since 1964. But until single women commit the ultimate act of patriotism -- voting -- and add their voices to running our country, we will never change our world. I like how Lisa Witter of Feministing puts it:
"With recent elections that hinged on a little more than half a million votes nationally and a few hundred votes in Florida, single women have more power than they realize - or exercise.
...America is changing and too many voices are not being heard in our democracy. It's time for single women in America to use their voice - and their vote - to make a difference in their lives." Then Witter signs off, "Sleeping giants no more..."
So get out there and vote, you sexy thing, you.
And while you're at it, I'd love to know:
- Did anyone here not vote in 2004 who plans to vote this time?
- Who among us is staying away from the polls?
- Do you find the Women's Voices Women Vote campaigns compelling? (Full list here)
- WVWV takes responsibility for turning out more single women voters in 2004. Do you plan to help or take any of their site's advice to help get the word out? More here: http://wvwv.org/
- What additional non-partisan are missing from the list above? Bring 'em on!