You can take the boy out of Oregon, but you can't take the... actually no. You can take the Oregon out of the boy. Witness, dear friends, what hath wrought Representative Ben Unger, D-Hillsboro: https://didtheyvote.org/. Did they vote? And what does this charming wee application do for yon Oregonians away in yonder Oregonia? It links up voter records to Facebook profiles. You can hop on there, and as long as you're a registered voter in the Beaver State, you can browse the other Beavers on your friends list to see who's already cast a ballot this year.
It's difficult for me to articulate how much I condemn this. It isn't so much that it bears the stench of the totalitarian tactic of turning brother against brother or children against parents. It isn't even so much that the party ostensibly opposed to oppression and domination would turn to a crude tool of distributed shame to achieve their craven ends. It isn't even that the sort of low-information voting this is likely to spur will do little more than put extra noise into an already noisy processing. No, the thing that gets my goat is that it turns both voting and public shaming into a game. There are leader boards—MOTHERF***ING LEADER BOARDS—that display how many finger wags folks have sent to "delinquent" citizens.
Long time readers of EE will know how seldom I deploy the term "apoplectic." Perhaps it's because I've had a somewhat hectic week and my natural defenses are down, but this news trifle comes dang close to making me apoplectic. I take informed voting seriously, as should any responsible citizen in a democracy. By all means, vote if you're informed about the candidates, their positions, and the likely impact your vote will have on policy. Vote if the issues are salient to you. Vote if you're not alienated by the unspeakable things politicians spend your money on. Vote if you think it will make a meaningful difference in your life. But if you head to the polls because your Facebook friends sent you a PM, it's time to re-evaluate your relationship with your system of government. And if you're one of the goons sending messages, perhaps it's time to pause and give some meaningful consideration to the sort of leadership you want to see in the nation's capital. Is someone who cheerfully turns a social network into a petty Red, White, and Blue version of the Stasi really the sort of person you want to see wielding the riding crop of power?
A peaceful society is one that invites. Embroidered on the stoop mat in front of a shop is a single, warm word: "welcome." You are welcome to come in and browse our wares. Find what you like, and we shall exchange value for value. In front of Congress is no such felicitous invitation. The Congress is by necessity an authoritarian assembly. Its pronouncements carry the weight of law and are each ultimately punishable by death. Using the cute little tricks (naming, shaming, gaming) of the marketplace in a fatal arena is a grotesque misapplication of scope, an unjust abuse of power, and a dishonorable act by any reasonable standard of conduct for free citizens in a democratic society.
If anything should be tenderly protected as a euvoluntary act in a system of representative government, it should be the ordinary act of of voting.
"What do you say, Angus?"
"People, if crap like this can happen, why do we even have a Federal Elections Commission at all?"