A recent post on CapitolWeekly.net, a site that covers California politics considered the role of Birdee to be a great success in driving up voter numbers in Culver City’s most recent council race. It was a classic example of confirmation bias. We had this thing – we wanted the numbers to go up – and they did- so it must have been this thing.
Voter turnout was not about the bird.
Sadly, what drove people to the polls was a different kind of flyer; the remarkably nasty and personalized campaigning of people who felt that candidates who had received one particular endorsement were an actual threat to their actual way of life.
The official amount of pride in Birdee was a nice bit of public relations, a way for the city to make a very specific effort to solve the problem of low turnout. But, as quoted here in an earlier essay, what brings people to the polls are problems, and we are often blessed not to have many of a serious nature.
I recall a city council meeting some years ago when the question of allowing dogs in the public parks drew dozens and dozens of people to come and address the topic. I thought at the time – if this is our biggest issue, we are in very good shape.
The good thing (more folks voting) was driven by the bad thing (people demonizing candidates) and now we have the ineffectual thing taking credit.
Physics joke – Scientists have recently discovered a source of one of the mysteries of the universe. It took a long time to read the clues, since unlike ‘dark matter’ and ‘anti-matter,’ the discovery of ‘doesn’t matter’ has almost no effect on the gravitational field surrounding it.
So it is with Birdee.
From Capitol Weekly – “Birdee was the brainchild of SeePolitical, a Los Angeles-based non-profit aimed educating voters and increasing election turnout. SeePolitical was founded in 2011 by Nate Kaplan, a Massachusetts native and longtime political staffer.
Kaplan partnered with Imaginary Forces, a Hollywood production studio responsible for the opening credits of Mad Men and many other iconic scenes and advertisements. Together they created SeePolitical’s 30, videos and animated shorts that explain ballot initiatives and encourage citizens to register and get out to the polls.”
The self congratulating success story doesn’t mention the 16- or was it 18? – candidate forums, the anonymous flyers, and the poison pen letters to the editor stopping just short of accusing council candidates of being in league with the devil.
When Culver City heads back to the polls for the next council race two years from now, “flipping the bird” won’t have anything to do with a cute cartoon. If we can’t treat each other with respect, we will have fewer candidates willing to do what it takes to run for office.
But, y’know, better voter turnout.