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Waking Up With an Election Hangover

ROBIN ABCARIAN

June 12, 1994|Robin Abcarian

Have you ever left a voting booth and immediately forgotten how you voted?

Or is it just me?

Very few of last week's races have stayed with me. I vaguely remember voting for Kathleen Brown for governor. And something sticks in my mind about Delaine Eastin for superintendent of public instruction. But there was no race that inspired true passion, and in the absence of passion, peculiar logic may flourish.

I voted for Democrat Tony Miller, for example, the acting secretary of state who wanted to keep the job, because he is gay. It's high time we had an openly gay state official.

The secretary of state, a job that seems to involve predicting how few people will vote, is not a post with a great deal of ideological impact, so Miller's political orientation really didn't matter to me. (Ordinarily, I might have voted for Michael Woo, except that I am still miffed at him for losing his last election and don't feel that statewide office should be his consolation prize.)

Even if Miller loses in November, Democrat Sheila James Kuehl, who is also gay, is likely to win a spot in the Assembly from the 41st District, which includes Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. Unfortunately, I don't live in the 41st, so I could send her only a check and my best wishes.

(And no, in case you were wondering, I don't think it's the \o7 least\f7 bit patronizing that a newspaper headline characterized her as an "ex-actress" instead of a "feminist attorney." Given the lowest common denominator approach to democracy, it is probably true that more people would recognize her as the former Zelda Gilroy from "Dobie Gillis" than as the former managing director of the California Women's Law Center.)

As for the propositions, all I know for sure is that I voted in favor of the ballot initiative that would stop TV news from showing any more pictures of that hideous flesh-eating bacteria that has invaded our shores.

As usual, I was on the losing side.

*

Election returns are not inherently funny, but I found myself smiling at the pseudo-serious tone adopted by newscasters Tuesday night, especially when they cluck-clucked over our low voter turnout. They noted that mere weeks ago, newly enfranchised blacks in South Africa spent hours in line waiting to exercise their hard-won right to vote.

What the anchor people wanted to say was: \o7 What's wrong with you people, anyhow?\f7

The question, anchor people, is what's wrong with \o7 you?\f7

The electorate needs to be encouraged to discharge its civic duty. People need to be shown why they have a stake in the system they so dearly love to trash. Television news, which has the unique ability to infuse mundane politics with drama, spits in the face of that obligation.

On Monday, the night before the primary, the top of 11 o'clock news featured the by-now-ubiquitous flesh-chomping bacteria and some unspeakably intrusive footage of the young Marine in Oceanside who had just lost his four sons and brother to a fire.

Not a word about the election in the top of the news. Nauseated from both stories, I changed channels--just in time to see the devastated father at the top of another station's broadcast.

Who was served by that?

*

I must have repressed what happened in the voting booth because I did something I'm ashamed of.

I'm pretty sure I voted yes, as is my custom, on anything with the word \o7 school\f7 in it. Yes, also, on anything involving parkland acquisition and access improvements for the disabled.

But I think I had some kind of liberal neuron blowout when it came to the renters' income tax credit. My bleeding heart suddenly imploded, replaced by a shrunken raisin of fiscal responsibility. I voted no.

And believe me, I don't feel too good about that.

But hey, at least I voted. Which is more than you can say for the 9.5 million registered Californians who didn't. How many are renters who might have turned the tide in their favor?

I can't imagine not voting--for two important reasons.

First, I passionately believe that voting is the truest and highest expression of democracy and freedom.

Second, blackmail. Twice in the last several years I have rushed to my polling place moments before closing. Both times, poll workers told me that they were waiting for me and would never have believed another word I'd written about politics if I hadn't shown up. One man threatened to send a letter to my editor exposing me if I ever missed a vote.

So you bet I vote.

Even if I don't always remember how.

* Robin Abcarian's column is published Wednesdays and Sundays.

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