Sunday, September 28, 2008

"These are the stakes ..."

The patchwork of voter registration deadlines throughout the United States reflects the diversity of the country, its resistance to uniformity, its tolerance for distinction. In some states, you can register to vote the day of the election; for others, any time in the weeks or days before the vote.

But for many states, the voter registration deadline is this Saturday, Oct. 4, one month before the general election that will decide the next president and, certainly, the arc of the national future. The advocacy group Vote for Change had this in mind Saturday when it released a new video meant to get out the vote in as frighteningly dramatic a fashion as you can imagine.

The video — a mock broadcast of an NBC News "Breaking News" report announcing the winner of the 2008 election — shows John McCain winning the election, 51 percent to 49 percent. A smiling McCain stands amid tumultuous applause.

The captions under him read: “"'JOHN MCCAIN ELECTED 44TH PRESIDENT” …


The image goes to black, and a new caption emerges:

“It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Vote for Change goes on to call on Americans to register to vote, request absentee ballots, and to find their polling locations.

The video would be comical if it weren’t so graphically believable — and given Vote for Change’s scenario of a McCain victory by 3 percentage points, so utterly possible. Turnout has long been thought to be the key in who wins this election; the Vote for Change video brings that home in a way that’s unmistakable. This may be the most compelling, dramatic campaign ad since the “Daisy” spot broke new political ground during the 1964 campaign, and helped Lyndon Johnson seal Barry Goldwater’s electoral fate.

“These are the stakes,” Johnson intoned in the ad as a mushroom cloud darkly ascended on the screen.

Once again, we’re presented with a stark, defining choice of directions for this nation. Thank Vote for Change for a video that distills what’s at stake — and what it’ll take to keep this video firmly in the realm of fiction, rather than prophecy.

Forward or backward. These are the stakes. Again.

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