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Season 15 | Episode 4

One Vote: The Broadcast

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(Photo Credit: Dean Terry)

Come election season, it's easy to get cynical. Why cast a ballot if your single measly vote can't possibly change anything? In this episode, we search for the single vote that made all the difference, from the biggest election on the planet, to a tiny election that ended a town.

Comments [2]

David from South Pasadena, CA

This is a comment on the Seneca, Nebraska story.
I found this story very disappointing, and typical of a kind of reporting all too common to NPR and its affiliates. You suggested that Seneca might be a microcosm for America as it currently stands politically. What you failed to include in that analogy is that the kind of reporting you did in this segment is also representative of the kind of reporting that has allowed America to become such a divided, uncommunicative nation. The reason why folks find it so easy to have alternative sets of facts isn't just a function of social psychology or the perils and pleasures of the Internet; it's because the press typically indulges this sort of emotionally-based relativity. Truth is not, pace most NPR reporting, an a la carte menu where if you take a little from column B and a little from column A, you get at--or close to--the truth. Truth is what actually happened, and your job is to try to find that out. But in this story, as in so many, you spent 95% of the story on the moods and feelings of the opposing parties and almost no time trying to get at the facts. Here, for instance, are a number of obvious questions you failed to ask:
--to the pro-unincorporate folks: just exactly what did you think unincorporation would accomplish? what specific initiatives or laws did you want to stop by unincorporating?
--are you voting based on feelings or on the basis of facts? If facts, what facts are you voting on? If feelings, do you think that's a legitimate way to vote?
--did the unincorporate folks really want abused animals crammed in yards in their town?
--did the stay a town folks really only seek to redress the animal abuse or were they pushing for more?
--and, finally, the unasked whopper: why not just vote out of office the three people on the town board whose policies you don't like? why "the nuclear option" when the non-nuclear one hadn't even been tried?

These kinds of questions will put people on edge because they challenge the comfy notion that poltical positions are verified by an emotional adherence to them. Such a challenge is so rarely made by NPR, for it has adopted a fawning adulation--or is it abject condescension?--of whatever political beliefs voters already hold. But if made, such a challenge might have called the folks to account themselves not only to each other, but to the facts of the situation. One of the reasons why we now have a nation split in two with completely alternative sets of facts is because the press, by and large, stopped calling the question years ago. If someone felt it or believed it passionately enough, who were you--the press--to question it? But that is exactly your job: to question people's "narratives"--to confront them with facts that undermine the legitimacy, veracity, sometimes even sanity of those narratives. And when you fail to do that--in cases large (America) or small (Seneca), you do us all a disservice.

Apr. 16 2017 08:31 PM
Roger from Berkeley

Here's a school board race from November, 2016, that was decided by one vote:
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/East-Bay-school-board-race-decided-a-single-vote-10688355.php

Apr. 16 2017 03:44 AM

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