Addicted to novelty since 2001

The Ground War in Pennsylvania

I feel like I’m recommending a This American Life episode every other week, but it’s a reflection of how much I enjoy the show. Last week’s episode was called “The Ground War”, and tells several stories from the electoral battles being fought in Pennsylvania:

This American Life goes to Pennsylvania, a battleground within a battleground, to figure out why, and how, John McCain and Barack Obama both think they can win there. And we get to know the ordinary people who’ve become the candidates’ most forceful foot soldiers.

Pennsylvania, I take it, is one of the few states that John Kerry won in the last election that McCain could take this time around. It’s a classic battleground state, described by one Democratic consultant as “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between”. It does feel like a metaphor for the entire election, with passionate people on both sides debating the issues and the personalities of the candidates. Simultaneously, we hear from racists and sundry imbeciles from around the state.

One segment profiles volunteers canvassing door-to-door. I’ve never done it, and I’ve always admired people who have the gumption (yes, I said ‘gumption’) to talk to complete strangers about their voting choices.

UPDATE: I meant to mention the swinging cover of Billy Joel’s “Allentown” near the end of the episode. It’s by a German band called Berlin Voices, and feels like an improvement on the original (you can hear a snippet here). They released a whole album of Joel covers. You might want to pass on “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (which you can hear on their MySpace page).

UPDATE #2: Today I read a Slate article about voter registration form. This seems desperately needed in the US. How undemocratic is a process where, in some states, you must register a month before the actual election?