This full-page ad from Rock the Vote was included in the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated On Campus, which is handed out with college newspapers as an insert:
"Off to college or off to war? It's up to you. Could you be drafted? It's just one of the many issues that could be determined this election."
The not-so-subtle message is that if Bush wins, there will be a draft, and if he doesn't, there won't be. That is just a ridiculous oversimplification. Given the hard realities of our current military overstretch, a draft can't be ruled out by any responsible leader, but neither side is proposing one, and a Bush defeat wouldn't magically resolve the problem.
These scare tactics are a lousy trick, especially from an allegedly non-partisan group that purports to speak for the youth of America. We're not that stupid, guys. Come on now.
Update: Apparently this kind of stuff works - AP reports that a majority of young people think Bush wants to bring back the draft:
The National Annenberg Election Survey found that 51 percent of adults age 18 to 29 believe Bush wants to reinstate the draft. Eight percent said Kerry supports bring back the draft, and 7 percent said both want to. A fourth of those polled said neither candidate favors the idea.
Both Bush and Kerry say they don't support a renewed military draft. Earlier this week, the House defeated a bill paving the way to a draft 402-2. House Republicans have sought to quash the persistent Internet rumor that the president wants to reinstate the draft if re-elected while Democrats have fanned the flames on the rumor.
"Young voters are much more misinformed about the presidential candidates' positions on the draft than the population in general," said Kate Kenski, an analyst at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Three in 10 adults think Bush wants to reinstate the draft, and 7 percent of all adults think both Bush and Kerry feel that way.
The polling of 1,543 adults was done from Sept. 27 to Oct. 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points — 7 percentage points for the young adults.
Update 2: Here's some more subtlety from our friends at RTV. The LA Times reports that "An army of new voters received a startling call to serve recently, when one of the largest nonpartisan groups trying to increase voting by young people sent fake draft cards to nearly 640,000 e-mail addresses. 'You've been drafted' was the subject line of the message sent by Rock the Vote. The message contained an image of a draft card addressed to the recipient and warned, 'real cards may be in the mail soon if the situation doesn't improve.'"
But the group denies that it is partisan:
[B]y raising the threat of the draft, Rock the Vote has staked its claim as the edgiest of the multimillion-dollar campaigns trying to push young people to the polls. The effort has also caught the attention of Republicans, who said the group misled voters and crossed into partisan politics.
"It has the face of a nonpartisan group, yet it's promoting the agenda of the liberal left," said Alison Aikele, spokeswoman for the College Republican National Committee. Aikele said has she received complaints from local chapters about draft rumors on campus.
Rock the Vote political director Hans Riemer said the group was trying to inform its members about the limits of U.S. military forces, not persuade them to vote for a particular candidate.
"It would be crazy if young people went to the polls and didn't factor this into their votes, however they come down on it. It's very real," said Riemer. "We're one major military conflict away from the draft. I don't see why candidates get to talk about war all day long and we can't talk about a draft."
Of course, Riemer is beating a straw man. No one said we can't talk about a draft. The problem is that their tactics are making it harder, not easier, to have an intelligent debate about our current military situation.
Update 3: Howard Dean (here and here) and Matthew Yglesias are claiming a draft is likely if Bush is re-elected as compared to Kerry. But their arguments are little more than speculation and supposition - pretty flimsy grounds for the kind of claims they're making.
Update 4: Rock the Vote's homepage now features this graphic:
Lovely. And the RNC has sent a letter (PDF) to Rock the Vote trying to intimidate them into stopping their campaign. Things appear to be degenerating rapidly...