It's Election Day! But no, it should not be a holiday
To read this issue in your browser, click on the headline above.
Eric Zorn is a former opinion columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Find a longer bio and contact information here. This issue exceeds in size the maximum length for a standard email. To read the entire issue in your browser, click on the headline link above. Become a paid subscriber to receive each Picayune Plus in your email inbox each Tuesday and join our civil and productive commenting community.
Why Election Day should not be a holiday
The idea of making Election Day a holiday so more people would vote has always sounded appealing to me. But “That Clerk Rachel” on Twitter, who identifies herself as a “friendly neighborhood election official” in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, posted the following fairly persuasive argument against the idea in a thread:
Election Day as a holiday will likely disproportionately benefit those who already face the least obstacles voting and has the potential to make it more difficult for those who already have significant burdens when voting.
Who gets holidays off? It's not retail or restaurant workers (or other low wage workers. Public transportation runs on reduced schedules on holidays. Schools and daycares close making parents have to find alternate arrangements.
USPS doesn't deliver mail so there's one less day for mail voters to return absentee ballots. Voters may need government IDs or documents to vote aren't going to be able to get them on Election Day.
There's nothing Election Day as a holiday aims to solve that wouldn't be better solved with expanded access to mail and early voting.
I’m also an election admin. Usually the point of not helping retail, food service, and other hourly workers is where I flummox proponents. They will eventually say something “well it might help some folks so we should try it.”
While also neglecting that it could actually make it more difficult for some voters.
Compare different outcomes and different voting methods
Sam Hyson writes: "I created this anonymous survey where people can try voting for Chicago's next mayor using 4 different voting methods. I'm curious to find out if different methods yield different results. The preliminary results are already intriguing."
They are, in fact, quite intriguing. Unscientific, of course, but the results do show how different voting methods can yield different results.
For the record…
Regarding “Paul Vallas blames unnamed hackers for his Twitter account’s likes of offensive posts,” I just want to say that if anything I post here ever infuriates you or crosses any lines, it wasn't me, it was someone who has access to my sign-on and may or may not look like me — Bizarro Eric, my snarky, unfair, impolitic volunteer assistant. Damn him anyway. I repudiate him and promise I'll get to the bottom of it.
Notes and comments from readers —lightly edited —- along with my responses
Andy S. —I voted for Paul Vallas in Tuesday’s election because he’s a seasoned manager of giant, complex bureaucracies and a visionary. He’s quirky, odd and seems to suffer from attention-deficit disorder, true, but he’s ready to step right in as mayor. Regarding his position on privatizing public education, I’ve become a fan of school choice because we affluent people have always had it. So why shouldn’t others? Choice should arguably be the liberals’ position since there will never be enough dollars and good sense to uplift public education.
I certainly understand the appeal of a green-eyeshade, sharp-pencil candidate with extensive managerial experience, though as the Tribune reported Wednesday, Vallas does not have an unblemished record of accomplishment running the show. School choice is an alluring idea, but I worry about its overall impact on education and society -- a debate/discussion that will flower starting right after the election assuming, as everyone seems to, that Vallas will be in the runoff.
I'm also concerned about how cozy Vallas has been with the rascally right, though, realistically, given that if he is elected mayor eventually he will be elected in spite of that, not because of that, I'm not particularly afraid he will turn Chicago into a MAGA paradise.
Chuck W. — I was surprised that you ended up voting for Chuy Garcia since you appear to understand fully what a political hack he is.
Most Chicagoans (probably including you) really don’t want to vote for any of these candidates and are disgusted with the paucity of inspiring choices. That is no accident. This is a terrible job in which you cannot succeed and will spend the foreseeable future being a punching bag. That is why Rahm Emanuel ran away from the job and why the really good potential candidates aren’t interested. (And Chuy really failed the intelligence test by wanting to leave a good job to do this.)
Predictions about how this will turn out are really tough. A few months ago I thought Lightfoot would be a finalist but now I think she will struggle to make the top 5. I was very interested to see David Axelrod predict a runoff of Vallas vs. Johnson. David is a very sharp political analyst although I would like to point out that he still owes me money based on his prediction that Elizabeth Warren would be the Democratic nominee in 2020.
I’ve certainly heard a number of people complain in the past month that they wish U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago’ 5th Congressional District were running. Others have said they were hoping former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan would throw in. Neither would be shoo-ins, but I hear you.
Axelrod could well be right. And Johnson/Vallas would be a sharp contrast.
I don’t consider Garcia a hack, just uninspiring and vague.
Gary H. — Since Paul Vallas says he’s literally dead, this may not matter. But his TV ads proclaiming that “Crime and your safety is his top priority” are like fingernails on a blackboard to me. If your purported accomplishments include your expertise running major school systems, I would think you’d at least know one Language Arts teacher who (whom?) could check your work.
Who is correct. Vallas’ copywriter is not correct.
Marc M — You shrug off Brandon Johnson's far left tax proposals because they are unlikely to pass but you are unwilling to overlook Vallas’ support of school vouchers, which he has not proposed in the campaign and would also be unlikely to pass.
I don’t “shrug off” Johnson’s proposals. They’re the reason I voted with some reluctance for the more moderate Garcia.
Christopher A. —My vote is for Lightfoot. Some say she’s abrasive, but I say she’s tough. Can you imagine what she's faced? Female. Black. Gay. How could you possibly grow a hide thick enough to withstand all the crap that's come her way without a little bitterness spilling out?
Abrasive, yes. Also impolitic, touchy and confrontational. I honor the strength and determination Lightfoot has shown in the face of prejudice, but she doesn’t have the qualities a mayor needs to inspire, cajole and otherwise lead a fractious City Council and a diverse city. I’m ready for a change.
Fred — While Lori Lightfoot has her issues and often rubs people the wrong way, it seems to me she cares deeply about Chicago. Also, the mayor has an almost impossible job. There’s the crime and gun violence which invades transportation and all neighborhoods of the city, plus the shortage of money to hire and train enough police officers. Then there are the problems with housing and aging infrastructure.
Yes. I sure wouldn’t want the job.
Jeff B. —What amazes me is the total lack of integrity in Lori Lightfoot.
She is the poster child of Chicago's autocratic mayor lineage, opaque if not dishonest too. Hiding facts from citizens is not how democracy should operate. It's too bad, because, like you say, some of her ideas are laudable.
Vallas? I agree that he's too Republican. Vouchers don't do anything but enrich private school operators and their investors, but that may be the point. Fix the public system already, including the unions if they're part of the problem. That's politics.
Loren S. — I take issue with an off-the-cuff comment you made on “The Mincing Rascals” podcast in response to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appeal to Black voters to vote for her because it serves their interests as Black people. You trotted out the old “Can you imagine if a white candidate…?” reply, as if the two are inverse but equivalent?
I dream of the day that argument will have merit. But for any future I can foresee, it will be baloney. Until we bury white supremacy––presumably the program of that archetypal white candidate––Black people and their representatives will have every moral justification for pursuing their interests of justice and equality explicitly as Black people.
Yes, there are obvious differences between, say, calls for Black power and calls for white power. But appeals to voters to support a candidate based on race can easily backfire, as they implicitly ask all voters to do the same. I notice that Garcia has not made the perfectly plausible claim that it’s high time that a city with such a large Hispanic population have a mayor who is Hispanic, and I think that’s wise on his part.
Rick W. — I signed onto ChatGPT and asked it to write me two sonnets about baseball. They weren’t perfect—definitely a couple of flaws, and you can kinda start to see the template—but not bad. Here’e one:
The crack of wood against the leather ball, A sound that echoes through the summer air, The players on the field stand straight and tall, And all around, the fans are filled with care. With every swing and throw, a dance unfolds, As fielders dive and runners slide to base, A game of skill and strategy, so bold, A testament to human strength and grace. The pitcher on the mound, a masterful sight, His windup smooth, his fastball sharp and true, The batter's eyes locked in with laser light, As tension builds and nerves are put to view. Oh, baseball, game of heart and soul and fire, May your spirit and passion never tire.
That's some real doggerel there, and I’m reminded how totally unsatisfying I find the sonnet form. But I’ll bet this effort would earn an A- in a high school sophomore English class. It would be an interesting test to ask a class of 10th graders to write sonnets about baseball, put their compositions into a stack with baseball sonnets generated by ChatGPT and ask a set of teachers not only to grade them but also to guess which ones came from real students and which came from the bot. I'd put money on the bot having the better GPA and fooling the teachers.
And what's particularly (many adjectives could fit in here), this technology is now in its infancy. Think how "smart" it will be in a decade.
Mike Q. — Regarding your link to the piece “do masks work?” You quoted the weak conclusion, “it depends.” But when we were all taking extreme precautions against COVID early on, the spread of flu was reduced dramatically. Shouldn’t we conclude that this was due to masks? And why are masks worn in surgical settings?
Worn correctly, surgical-grade masks do work to limit the spread of infections whether in the operating theater or on a crowded train. Cloth masks or surgical masks worn incorrectly are evidently far less effective against the spread of COVID-19
Richard N. — I want to thank you for the piece you wrote about the Tribune’s subscription-pricing practices. I got my bill today for the next six months at $90.74. I called customer service at 800-874-2863 to ask for a different price. The agent gave me a price of $39.00 for six months! I just saved enough for my subscription to the Picayune Sentinel.
Savings well invested! Some readers have reminded me to point out that the Tribune is far from alone in how it takes advantage of customer inertia and is opaque about pricing.
Ya gotta see these tweets!
I often run across tweets that rely on visual humor and so can’t be included in the Tweet of the Week contest (the template I use for that poll does not allow me to include images). Here are a few good ones I’ve come across recently:
The Tyson tweet is not real, FYI.
Vote for your favorite. I’ll share the winner in Thursday’s main edition.
There’s still time to vote in the conventional Tweet of the Week poll!
Thank you for supporting the Picayune Sentinel. To help this publication grow, please consider spreading the word to friends, family, associates, neighbors and agreeable strangers.
Oops! Once again, only the first of the five visual tweets' images (the first one's) is visible on my Twitter-free Android phone.
My hot take: Lori leaves Chicago before the Bears do.