Americans cast dollars, not votes
Knowing exactly what to look for, trudging through battlefields to receive a prize, and paying whatever price necessary to get it. This is no description of elections, war or politics, but of Black Friday.
According to the National Retail Federation, 140 million Americans were predicted to run through retail stores on Black Friday.
Around 77 million voters took to the polls on Nov. 4 for midterm elections.
In the 2nd Congressional District race between Ron Barber and Martha McSally, Barber sued to have 133 votes counted that wouldn’t normally be counted at all.
Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District isn’t unique in this respect. According to Secretary of State Ken Bennett, there are over 700 votes that weren’t counted in Maricopa County.
William Lytle, an atmospheric sciences graduate student, voted in the midterm elections, but didn’t go Black Friday shopping this year. He said that everything that can be done to navigate the system with ease is done, pointing out that mail-in ballots include informational booklets that outline the issues on a specific ballot. However, on Black Friday, consumers can shop online with Amazon’s one-click option, go into the store or even order over the phone from a catalog, unlike the two options voters receive.
Nick Mahon, president of the UA Young Democrats, said if U.S. citizens could vote by phone or online, the voter turnout may not have been so bleak in comparison to the shopper turnout.
However, Lytle said that voters don’t choose whether or not to vote because of availability.
“As it is, voting is pretty simple,” Lytle said. “People being unwilling to vote transcends the [idea of] being too lazy to travel to the polls.”
Samara Klar, an assistant professor of political science, has mixed feelings about changing the voting system.
Making voting more accessible could create a larger voter turnout, Klar said, but early voting is already is already accessible and is getting younger voters to the polls.
Klar said she doesn’t believe creating other voting mediums will make a significant difference, since people tend to vote when they’re excited about a particular candidate rather than due to voting’s accessibility.
Caleb Rhodes, the president of the UA College Republicans, agreed with Lytle, and said that consumers spend 12 minutes choosing a television but voters should take longer to choose a candidate.
Rhodes also said that voting isn’t invasive when it comes to time. He drove to Vail, Ariz., to cast his vote and said the drive was the most time-consuming part of voting, but that the voting itself took at most five to 10 minutes. Mail-in ballots can take even less time.
Mahon agreed with Rhodes that the actual process of mail-in voting is easy, but that online voting is inevitable.
“Eventually, voting online will be a very successful option,” Mahon said. “But that is a long time coming. There are very valid security concerns.”
Clarity is another division between voting and shopping that could steer more people to the polls and away from televisions. When a shopper sees a television they’ve been eyeing, they know exactly what they’re getting: They know how it works, what it looks like, what they can do with it and how much it costs. This is a luxury many voters aren’t always given.
Charlotte Walk, a sales associate at Victoria’s Secret at Park Place Mall, said that offering customers clarity on their prices and sales contributes positively to the overall outcome of a specific Black Friday, Klar said, but that this same point doesn’t necessarily carry over into politics.
“Many candidates do work hard to clarify their stances on issues,” Klar said. “But people just aren’t going to vote if candidates can’t generate the enthusiasm.”
Gina Medici, a second-year atmospheric science graduate student, went shopping on Black Friday, but didn’t vote in the midterm elections this year. She said that she doesn’t follow politics and didn’t feel as if she should vote without any knowledge about what’s going on. But, she went shopping because she knew what she wanted.
Sherry Lotz, an associate professor in retailing and consumer sciences, said that shopping is a personal experience, and you give your vote in public. She said voting isn’t personal, inviting or warm, and that could contribute toward people showing up for Black Friday instead of the polls.
This isn’t to say that political activism has stopped altogether to lend an ear to Black Friday. In some cases, it’s just the beginning of political activism.
Small businesses are fighting back against big corporations with Small Business Saturdays.
According to Independent We Stand, for every $100 spent at locally-owned businesses, $68 stays in the community.
Tom Cassidy, with the partnership of his wife, owns, manages and works at Out Of Ordinary or Ooo! on University Boulevard. He said Small Business Saturday works toward his advantage when most people head toward the large chain stores on Black Friday.
On an average day, Cassidy said, 100 percent of his customers are just people walking in from the streets. But on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, probably 80 percent are serious shoppers.
Small business owners aren’t the only people setting up to help their community. Walmart protestors spent Black Friday rallying against their wages and hours. According to mic.com, over 1,600 Walmarts were protested against all over the country this year.
Additionally, the Ferguson protests were on the minds of holiday shoppers with people staging die-ins and vowing not to shop in protest of the lack of indictment of the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.
Trinity Goss, the vice president of the Black Student Union, said she thinks the protestors using Black Friday for their protest was a great outlet.
“There are tons of people out shopping, and it’s a good stage to make a statement about something,” Goss said. “Especially when it affects the economy. It’s going to get recognition.”
Rhodes said these protests may be receiving attention, but nothing is going to be changed by disrupting people’s holiday shopping.
Mahon, on the other hand, said that these protests bring more attention to the protesters’ causes, and that they raised attention regarding labor and police violence.
Goss added that the protesters are working on keeping their statement relevant.
“I’m not going to put my money back into my country that doesn’t value me as a person,” Goss said.
Shoppers spent $52 billion on Black Friday, according to the Associated Press. The Center for Repsonsive Politics showed that donors and groups spent $3.67 billion on the 2014 midterm elections.
By following those numbers, if Americans are putting their money where their mouths are, Black Friday has more of a hold on the populous than politics. Consumerism at its finest.
Follow Christianna Silva on Twitter.