Monday, February 24, 1997

Music by Committee

One of the duties of my job with Washington County is to occasionally go down to the Capitol to track election legislation. It has been an educational experience to witness how our laws are conceived and executed and the protocol of politics. Election laws are a highly discussed issue with legislators since each of them in order to be where they are had to succeed in an election. And since there is nothing so dangerous as a successful politician, each of them feels they have some expertise in how elections should be conducted. This is akin however to each of us thinking we are expert musicians simply on the basis of our ability to sell the latest U2 CD.

Watching the legislature at work is more a psychology than a civics lesson. On the particular day I went down to sit in on a elections hearing the house committee was discussing a bill that would allow all registered voters in Minnesota the choice to vote by mail by requesting a ballot in writing. Current law only allows voters who are absent from their precinct, incapacitated or serving as an election judge in another precinct to vote absentee. The bill's author and supporters feel that by allowing everyone the choice to vote by mail, voter participation would increase.

During the committee's discussion the only concern to the bill that was raised was the argument that elections are geared to happen on a given day, a given moment and all the campaign energy is focused to reach its effectiveness by that specific date. Allowing people to vote by mail would mean campaigns couldn't coordinate their focus as effectively. And in a worst case scenario such as the governor's race of a few years back when a candidate (Jon Grunseth) became involved in a scandal days before election day, voters who had already cast their ballot would not have the opportunity to react to the latest news.

The bill's author countered this argument by saying the option to vote by mail would still allow voters the chance to go to their polling place on election day and cast their ballot in person, canceling their mailed in vote. Discussion aside, the chair of the committee called for a vote. What had been a one sided discussion where everyone seemed to think the bill was a good idea, was not reflected in the vote. All the DFL'ers in the room voted for passage, and all the Republicans voted against the bill. Turns out the current governor is against any vote by mail provisions. Despite the claims that partisan politics were a thing of the past, they are going just as strong as ever. So it was just another day at the legislature.


This coming from a guy that actually enjoyed the Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, phenomenon, I must admit I was at a loss to appreciate the New Kids on the Block and now the Spice Girls' appeal. While I agree it is true that this country needs teeny bopping role models, I fail to see what all the hoopla is about the current group du jour. Granted the only thing I've seen or heard of theirs was a video I happened across on MTV while I was in the middle of clicking. I watched for a few minutes and then continued with my clicking. The music seemed pleasant enough, and they appear to be happy and wholesome youngsters but there lacked a certain charisma, a certain intrigue to it all. Maybe I'm just becoming the curmudgeon I've strived to be but I wouldn't want my youngsters to spend their hard earned (I'm sure) allowances on this latest marketing fad.

So how do I explain my fondness for Debbie Gibson and yet maintain my equal disdain for the Spice Girls? It's the committee, gang, clique, group mentality that doesn't quite work for me. If you're going to try and corner the teenage market (and I of course being the perpetual teenager am now going on to my twenty second teenage year) at least have the courage to do it individually. The message that teenagers seldom hear is the one that encourages them to develop whatever it is that makes them different, makes them unique and not give into the all too prevalent don't do alone what all your friends, your tribe, are doing. And at the risk of being accused of being border closing, red coat fearing patriot I think we have plenty of fine young performers from our own shores. So stop the damn invasion. If the kiddies need to go to see a show I would have to steer them in the direction of LeAnn Rimes instead of that conglomerate from overseas.

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