How to pretend you give a shit about the election

Here’s a little funny for your Sunday morning, just to change things up a bit.

Are you feeling forced to vote for the lesser of two evils in the upcoming (American) presidential election? That trusted source The Onion shows you how you can pretend you care, while not having to vote at all.

Today Now!: How To Pretend You Give A Shit About The Election

Note: because I’ve caused some confusion before, I will note that my text above was largely sarcastic, and I really do believe that it is important to vote.

Posted by LisaJ


  1. John C. Randolph says

    On a related note, some very clever video editing:

    My hat’s off to the person who did all that work.


  2. John C. Randolph says

    I’ve done a little bit of video editing in my time, so I have some idea of how much work that Barack Roll video was. Just getting his hands on all the source footage could have taken him weeks.


  3. John C. Randolph says


    Yours was better than the one I posted.

    You really can find just about anything on YouTube these days.


  4. LisaJ says

    Thanks for all the links guys, they’re all hilarious. It’s helping to make me a little more cheerful as I head out to my lab for my 6 hour weekend work day :(

  5. John C. Randolph says

    out to my lab for my 6 hour weekend work day

    They told you you could dig ditches, but you said “no, I want to be a scientist”.

    If you were in the ditch digging union, you’d be getting double time for working on a Sunday. ;-)


  6. negentropyeater says

    American presidential elections consistently score much lower participation rates than French presidential elections :

    Last 4 elections

    US : 55%, 49%, 51%, 57% = 53%
    F : 84%, 80%, 80%, 84% = 82%

    Almost 30% difference !

    France and the USA are the two oldest democracies electing their president directly (or almost directly in the case of the USA).
    Such a huge difference in turnout requires an explanation.

    My 2 cents, the length of the electoral process is what causes such a huge difference. In the USA at least a year, France less than 6 months. Americans get bored.
    Also, the consequences are huge because traditionally those who don’t vote are the less favorised socio-economic classes. So that also explains why the USA never really had a real social-democratic alternative.

    I think it’s really time Americans start thinking about the length of their electoral process.

  7. yocco says

    The almost directly makes a huge difference inthe US. I know it affected me. Last election living Texas bush won by nearly two million votes. What is the point of going to the poll to vote for some guy who though a better alternative to Bush really does nothing for me. Voting would have been a waste of my time.

  8. JM Inc. says

    Actually, there’s a really good issue of Critical Review out currently discussing “The Rhetorical Presidency“, including an article by Tulis himself. I won’t say too much about it, but I will point you in the direction of a sample article from the current issue.

    Read, enjoy, buy. I fully recommend this as necessary reading for the dedicated conscientious voter this election season.

  9. MAJeff, OM says

    Such a huge difference in turnout requires an explanation.

    At a national level, definitely. It’s also worth remembering, though, that there is a wide disparity within the United States. Some states have numbers that approach those of France (I’m thinking of places like Minnesota and Oregon that come close to the 80% of registered voters range). Part of it is regulatory. Part of it is the political culture of the states. These are related to local histories with regard to race and class, as well.

    One thing I miss about Minnesota is same-day registration. I actually missed the 2000 election because I moved within the 30-day registration limit in New England, from Massachusetts to Rhode Island. It was an emergency move, and shit just got fucked up. With same-day registration, I could have brought in my new lease, a bill, and an ID, and registered and voted. As it was, I got lost in bureacracy. I’m not saying that my situation is usual. Nor am I saying that had I been thinking about voting instead of about finding an apartment, I might have been able to make something work. We make voting harder than it needs to be.

  10. LisaJ says

    Feynmaniac @ #16. I did want to post that one, it’s beyond hilarious… but then I thought I remembered PZ linking to it, or at least discussing it, somewhat recently. Does anyone else remember this happening?

  11. brandon says

    HAHA! The best part of that was the last sentence: “And when we come back…3-time Grammy Award winner, Shanandranaaaaaa”

  12. LisaJ says

    I like the little ‘Did You Know’ clips along the bottom: women can vote, and animals can’t. Love the Onion.

  13. JM Inc. says

    A little on the less serious side of my previous comment, there’s JibJab. I’m sure many of you’ll probably have seen this one before, but I can’t get enough of it.

  14. SteveO says

    Some contributions from my area of interest, economic behavior:

    I think one of the profound reasons we have such low turnout is the luxury that we are afforded, in that it doesn’t really matter. For decisions that directly affect us, like what car to buy, we generally have close to 100% participation. The more affluent a society, and the more stable, the less it matters who is elected. The truth is that the president in office makes very little difference to any individuals life.

    I know some people will be horrified at that prospect, but those who want to impress on others the importance of voting I think really are over-inflating that importance. As an example, think of the people on “Jay-Walking”, Jay Leno’s segment where he finds that people know nothing about current politics. The truth is, it can’t possible matter to those people. For the rest of us to pretend it matters much more to our lives is a lot like believing in an invisible sky god who intervenes.

    Another point: I’m perfectly happy that the levels of voter turn-out are so low. If everyone were requied, or heavily encouraged to vote, then the voting process would only reveal one dimension of quality- preference. It would not take into account “I prefer A to B”, “I hate B more than A”, “I REALLY hate A more than B”, etc.

    By allowing turn-out to be completely voluntary, we ensure that in general (though not perfectly) a second dimension of quality is expressed. In general, we get elections decided by those who are more informed, more invested, or have a stronger degree of preference. (As just one example, taking the time from work and standing in line is a discount obstacle. Those who go to the effort are more strongly expressing their preference).

    If you really want to increase turn-out, the biggest obstacle is the single iteration election day. Like many pareto game theory puzzles, having only one shot and no knowledge of what others are doing gives a different outcome than an expectation of iterations. If the election were held over the course of 3 days, with the results posted after each day, voter turn-out would be exponentially higher. (Partly due to availability, but mostly due to iterative feedback awareness)

  15. says

    No, I don’t feel like I have to choose between the lesser of two evils. I don’t agree with everything Obama says but he’s a smart guy and he’s on the right track, and McCain is a fucking idiot.

    I’m quite happy voting for Obama.

  16. negentropyeater says


    I completely disagree with you. What you are suggesting is in contradiction with most political scientists.

    First, in the USA as in most western democracies, voter turnout is very clearly linked to level of education and income. The higher the education, or the income quintile, the higher the turnout.

    For instance 1988:
    Lowest income 43%
    2 : 52%
    3 : 59%
    4 : 67&
    Highest income 77%

    No high school : 38%, Post graduate : 84%

    In France it’s similar, but because the average is so high the trend is not that pronounced.

    In both cases, I’m talking of VOLUNTARY participation.

    Actually if you compare amongst natons, you’ll see that the using the United Nations Human Development Index as indicator of wealth, there is some correlation between higher standards of living and higher turnout.

    The exception is of course, the USA. But withn the USA, as shown above, the same phenomena is clearly seen.

    So I remain with my analysis in my post #15.

    Not only is low voter turnout in the USA a critical problem, but also a key afactor in explaining why the USA has consistently rejected a true social-democratic form of government.

    If the poor and less educated don’t vote, then over the long term, it’s noraml that they are going to get governments who don’t implement policies that look after them.

  17. says

    For some reason the video automatically starts playing whenever I load my LJ friendslist, but when I load up Pharyngula nothing happens. Has anyone else noticed this?

  18. ThirtyFiveUp says

    Obama, I will vote for him with joy this year.

    But caution, there are welfare queens in this country who do not want him to be elected. Corporate welfare queens. The Main Stream Media is owned by them, so do not trust what they say about Obama; and even more important, do not say about McCain.

    The economy of the USA for everyone is consistently better when Democrats have power. Don’t trust me, look it up. Corporate queens just like the low income taxes and the gov subsidies to fill their pockets with the megabucks. You know, those, “I’ve got mine!” folks.

    Still looking for my turn at some of that promised trickle.

    More on yesterday’s Health Care Thread.
    Elderly woman telling me the sad story of how her insurance company did not want to pay for her post operative (knee reconstruction) therapy and the time and effort it took to finally get her money.

    I said, it sure would be good to have a system like all the other advanced nations have for health care. She said, “Oh no, Socialized Medicine is terrible.

    Programmed, heh.

  19. SteveO says


    I don’t think you contradicted my point at all.
    I’m perfectly happy to have the least educated be the ones who stay home.

  20. negentropyeater says


    you did write this :

    I think one of the profound reasons we have such low turnout is the luxury that we are afforded, in that it doesn’t really matter. For decisions that directly affect us, like what car to buy, we generally have close to 100% participation. The more affluent a society, and the more stable, the less it matters who is elected. The truth is that the president in office makes very little difference to any individuals life.

    First, it’s simply not true that affluence explains low turnout, it’s actually the opposite. Second, this notion that “the president makes no difference” is what keeps the less educated and the poor from voting.

    If the poor and less educated don’t vote, and continue doing like this over generations, in the end, you’ll get a surprise !

    If you are perfectly happy with having the poor and less educated stay home, why even bother having a presidential election ?

  21. K says

    “and I really do believe that it is important to vote.”

    What for? I really DON’T care about the election. Voting is not a magic wand that will fix everything that’s broken. For that matter, the 2 dorks running don’t even have a plan to solve the problems, just rhetoric and double-speak. Economy in the toilet? Too bad. War in Iran? Something sure needs to be done about that. Peak oil and global warming? Uh huh. Sure is.
    I voted once in my life and it really proved everything I thought-my vote ain’t worth the gas it takes to find the polling place, 1 person cannot make a difference, and I wasn’t voting FOR someone, I was voting AGAINST Bush. It’s an utterly worthless endeavor that I will never do again.

  22. Nerd of Redhead says

    In my dream world, only those who vote would be able to criticize politics and politicians. If you aren’t willing to take a few minutes every year or two to make a statement, you should not complain about the results.

  23. says


    From the foreign perspective it isn’t just that the two guys running don’t offer concrete solutions, but also because of the way the winner is decided. It seems to me that in the US presidential election your vote means nothing unless you’re on the side that wins that particular state.

    In the UK we have a somewhat similar situation, using First Past The Post (FPTP), you vote for a local MP, and they then represent you in Parliament. The winning party is decided on the number of MPs they gain. This means that elections come down to a relatively few seats that change hands on a regular basis. The Conservative party has no hope of winning seats in many inner city areas, and Labour won’t win in some of the more rural places. Governments can, and have, been elected with a minority of votes because they won the seats that mattered.

    The alternatives have their own problem (the regular need to form coalitions to make a government), but I think that anything that makes you feel that your vote makes a difference (even if you’re voting against rather than for) might encourage more people to vote.

  24. SteveO says


    OK, I see where you’re going there. I missed your point the first time. I guess we have two points really.

    1. I’m not sure about your refuation of my point. I think it’s nearly axiomatic, so I’ll admit I’m having trouble seeing objections. I think you’d have to show a country even more luxurious than the US in order to establish your trend. Saying that other countries vote more than the US makes my point- in my eyes.
    I can see maybe three modes. A) Countries where things are in the toilet and people are extremely motivated to vote (Iraq). B) Countries where things are pretty well-off, and stable, therefore people aren’t that motivated (USA). C) Places where things are in the toilet, but people know there’s no hope of real election turnout or real change (Zimbabwe).
    I’m not sure what you mean that the “notion” that the president makes no difference keeps people from voting. Our perceptions are the reality we act on. This neither proves nor disproves whether the president actually makes a difference. If I in fact said he makes no difference, let me ammend that to say the perception is that he makes little difference. Don’t confuse this with vocal protestors and political pundits. Rush, Ann Coulter, Al Gore, James Carville, Code Pink all want you to believe it matters, but they’re really talking about themselves.
    We know that a bunch of clammoring Christians doesn’t prove anything about the actual state of the world. We also have a strong suspicion that people’s claims don’t necessarily represent what they truly believe. My evidence is in the very fact that people aren’t showing up. As an economic thinker, I take more evidence from the mass action than all the speech. The substrate for the joke video that this post is based on makes my point. It wouldnt’ be funny and instantly recognizable if it weren’t so true.
    Another similar situation is the bored, passive-aggresive discussion among couples, on where to eat dinner tonight. “You pick, don’t make me pick.”
    “Oh, anythings fine with me”
    “Well how about Taco Bell”
    “Not Taco Bell”
    “You said anything’s ok!”
    Only in a society where food is so readily available so cheaply and with such great variety can we become bored with eating out every night of the week. The luxury breeds the indifference.

    2. I’m not sure why you think those who have the least stake in society, or those who are least educated should be encouraged to vote. Do you believe that have some special “woo” powers to select a better leader?
    I posit that what they will generally do is vote for people who promise to give them stuff. I think that’s already happened enough over the past 70 years. Every election cycle is a battle over who claims to give out the most goodies.

  25. Qwerty says

    SteveO, com’on. Americans don’t vote for two reasons. Apathy and good old American laziness. (You could argue that is one reason.) The same reasons why we’re all such chubbicans. We’d rather go to a movie, eat pizza, and then spend the next four years saying I’m glad I didn’t vote for that bozo.

    My favorite Onion article was after Katrina. I think the headline was “US to sell Louisiana back to France.” And my favorite quote from the article: Bush says it’s a real fixer upper.

  26. SteveO says

    We’re really not disagreeing. But to say “laziness” isn’t really an answer. If OJ Simpson is chasing me with a knife, I will overcome my natural tendency toward laziness.

    All humans are in fact inherently lazy. There’s a strong reason for it. On the other hand, there’s a strong reason to collect food and fend off predators.

    We respond to incentives and disencintives in accordance with the margin of luxury that allows our behaviors.