On the night before the 1988 election, my college roommates and I were watching “Nightline,” and caught a startling and wonderful sign-off by then-ABC reporter Jeff Greenfield. I liked it so much that four years later, I was waiting with a VCR to see if Greenfield would deliver the same message again.
He did, and here it is, transcribed word-for-word, and edited just slightly to take out references to any particular election year:
“If you’re still not sure whether you’re going to go out and vote, do us all a favor–stay home. I know this flies in the face of the incessant appeals from news programs like this one, from public service announcements, from movie stars and rock-and-roll idols, begging reluctant citizens to go out and cast a ballot. But think about it for a minute. Sure, our political system rests on a belief in one person, one vote. Sure, on election day the pauper is equal to the millionaire, the servant and the master speak with the same voice, but do we also really believe that the citizen who has no interest in the government, the American who has to be dragged to the polling place like a reluctant suitor, badgered into a trip down the aisle, really deserves such solicitude?
“And this year… no one can honestly say we’ve lacked the chance to see and hear these [candidates], or their records, or their ideas, or their personalities.
“So please, if you still feel too lazy, too uninvolved, too apathetic to care about this election, do not tarnish the votes of your genuinely interested friends and neighbors.
“Go back to sleep.”
–Jeff Greenfield, “Nightline”, ABC, November 3, 1992.
A dozen years later, that’s still pure poetry–and damn good sense. Take it to heart.