Let's Make "EAT, VOTE, SHOP"
I'm a voter. I come from a long line of voters. My mother was a poll watcher for years. My father actually ran for local office and won more than he lost.
If you're not voting regularly you're missing a good time, at least here in East Haddam, where political parties throw a pretty good feed at the polls: pastries, egg sandwiches, doughnuts, doughnut holes, coffee (regular and decaf), the works.
Independents, Democrats and Republicans have found common ground in my town: cholesterol. In the spirit of bipartisanship I routinely sample the fare at all of the makeshift diners, which are the requisite 75 feet from the polls. Thus fortified, I proceed to do my civic duty.
Let me state for the record that the relative quality of the grub does not influence my vote all that much.
My civic experience is generally a happy one. I bump into people I haven't seen in a spell and meet some new ones, too. My excellent electoral adventures got me thinking: What do we Americans cherish? We like to eat and we like to shop. What don't we like? We don't like politics, and we clearly are not fond of voting.
Maybe our two shared passions can boost our pathetic voter turnout. In the 2016 presidential race more than 2 in 5 eligible (i.e., registered) Americans did not vote. After you add in the number of voting-age citizens who do not bother to even register to vote, roughly half of our nation sat the election out. Many more people stay home in local and federal mid-term elections.
Some measures have been tried to remedy this. Making doing our civic duty more convenient is a good thing, such as early voting and "motor voter laws" that allow citizens to register when they get their driver's license. Making Election Day a holiday surely would increase turnout.
But these are half measures. Let's make voting downright fun, filling and profitable. We shouldn't take a back seat to North Korea, where 99.97 percent of the people cast their ballots for the "Dear One" and his Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland.
My proposal, "Eat, Vote, Shop," makes perfect sense. The main electoral event, of course, is in November, the same month we gorge ourselves on turkey and all the fixings, thus waxing ever more obese. And we all know what starts in November (actually in October nowadays): the Holiday Shopping Season.
Are we talking synergy or what?
Before we go any further, let me document our retail and culinary predilections. How much do we like to eat? More than two-thirds of us adults are overweight or obese. Most Americans miss elections, but not many of us skip a meal.
What about shopping? A recent poll revealed that 60 percent of us cast our dollars every month at Walmart. Another survey indicated that 44 percent of us shop on Black Friday, an ordeal that makes going to the polls seem like a picnic by comparison.
Here's my plan for transforming election days into an All-American, Reality Show Frolic. First, every polling place should offer diverse and alluring sustenance — not just greasy-spoon victuals. Let's enlist local celebrity chefs and aspiring gourmands to whip up their signature dishes at every polling place. Why not gluten-free crêpes and Eggs Benedict alongside gelatinous doughnuts? We could even vote twice (calm down, Republicans): once for the lesser of two evils, and then for our favorite culinary wizard.
Now, my fellow Americans, let's go shopping. We have sales at Christmas, sales to honor Washington and Lincoln, back-to-school sales, spring fashion sales, and just on and on. Shopping makes us happy — or at least less depressed — plus it boosts our economy. Remember after 9/11, when President George W. Bush advised us to do our patriotic duty and hit the malls. I'm proposing that we do more: We vote and then we shop.
Election Week should be the biggest shopping spree of the year. Stores could offer deep patriotic discounts to the voting faithful. We would need better documentation than "I Voted Today" stickers or ink-stained thumbs, à la Iraq (where the turnout tops ours, by the way). But we can figure it out; we made it to the moon, after all.
My proposal needs a ringing slogan, of course. How about: "Ask not what the Gross National Product can do for you, ask what you can do for the GNP!"