Let me say: Bravo to all you out-of-staters who registered to vote in Connecticut and exercised that right and privilege this past Tuesday. Like that Ned Lamont poster told me, this was a great chance to “Show Your Courage,” and if Ned Lamont says so, well then — you better vote. As hard as you can. In the zero to three full years you’ve spent in New Haven (specifically our little Yale fiefdom securely gated off from the city’s actual residents), you’ve no doubt gained some keen insight into the hopes and dreams of Connecticutians and feel yourself qualified to decide that yes, Ned (or Joe, but probably not Alan) should represent them in the Senate. Now let me say: Cut that out. Yes, you. Stop it.
In all honesty, I almost voted here on Tuesday. Like a lot of other folks, over the summer I followed the Lamont-Lieberman primary contest and its attendant hysterical finger-pointing and occasional anti-Semitism on various liberal Internet echo chambers. I let the Lamont people at the club fair register me to vote in Connecticut because a) it was easy and b) I thought it was adorable that they assumed it was a good idea to let me vote in their election. Come Tuesday, however, I decided not to vote as a citizen of Connecticut, and not just because I was really busy or lazy, although I was certainly both of those things. No, I decided that abstaining from voting in Connecticut, particularly for its Senate seat, was the responsible, democratic choice, an assessment that has the benefit of being both self-aggrandizing and true.
I don’t have any particular affection for or connection to New Haven, much less the state of Connecticut, and it would be stupid to imagine I’m the only one who’s not ready to go all townie here. Connecticut is a place that happens to contain Yale, and I certainly admire how reliable and effective it is at happening to contain something. But, for me, this city and state are a waypoint before I move someplace with warmer weather and adventure and joy, which should be in about a year and a half. This senatorial election stood to put a man into office for six years, which is significantly longer than my semi-commitment to Connecticut — if I’m still here in six years, something has gone horribly awry.
Still, though, according to a recent article reassuringly titled “Many students ignore local politics” (11/07), 23 percent of Yalies not from Connecticut have registered here. Thus, we have students deciding to vote here as “a matter of political strategy,” as “they see a particular potential to influence politics on a national level.” We get kids like the student quoted in that article, who attributed his decision to re-register in Connecticut to the Senate race while simultaneously expressing his disinterest for the state’s politics, saying, “In general, I’d be more likely to vote in my home state because I care more about things locally there.”
I care about the national issues at stake, too. Specifically, I care about stopping people like Ned Lamont from effecting immediate troop “redeployment,” as that’s apparently the best euphemism anyone’s come up for “withdrawal” and “defeat.” But I recognize that there’s more at stake for the people of Connecticut in this election than strictly national issues, and that there are Connecticut-centric concerns of which people like me have very little understanding. And maybe these concerns boil down to more effectively securing federal contracts, i.e., patronage. Elected representatives’ distortion of national spending to reward their constituents produces less effective governance — but that’s the business of their constituents, not a bunch of interlopers who have read some editorials and decided they’re hotshots.
Relative foreigners who decide to interfere in Connecticut elections are a bunch of glorified carpetbaggers, whether they’re from just north like me or from the 44 states New Englanders prefer to ignore. Much as it’s entertaining to congratulate ourselves on our civic involvement and the somehow deeper, more meaningful bond we feel with the inhabitants of a state we know nothing about, this is not our home. Unless we plan on going native and Kurtz-ing it, any electoral weight we throw around outside of aldermanic elections in student-only wards is more than a little presumptuous. Put bluntly, we don’t belong here, and when we decide we know enough to vote in Connecticut’s elections, we’re screwing up its democratic process. So, next time you feel the urge to “influence politics on a national level” by hijacking Connecticut’s vote, don’t. Just appreciate the state’s generous Toad’s-bounty and mind your own business.
Sam Heller is a junior in Pierson College. His column appears on alternate Fridays.