David Brooks has an excellent op-ed piece in this morning's New York Times. He complains that the 2012 presidential campaign is one of the dullest ever, symptomatic of the general decline in American politics.
Now that that’s settled, I am very much concerned with the ignorance of so many Americans. This may come from a minimum of interest, time, resources, or the inability to research, read, or access any media whatsoever. Maybe people don’t ever, ever use their computers to learn about issues or bother to open a newspaper.
And yes, I’m being a little facetious.
Maybe they do read, but fail to catch up on the news on a regular basis. Maybe they’re apathetic. Or lazy. Or gullible. Or afraid they won’t be able to process what they’re seeing and hearing. Or maybe they don’t understand what they’re hearing. Or perhaps their only source of news is Fox, which has proved itself to be a propaganda network, not a reliable source for hard news.
Whatever the reason, it saddens and infuriates me. We’re coming up on another presidential election, and people who will actually go to the polls and vote still don’t seem to understand, say, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Here’s a headline I just ran across:
The breakdown: 41% of those surveyed said the court should strike down the entire law, and another 27% said the justices should overturn only the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.
Do these people know what’s in the law or how it works, why the mandate is in there, or how lives will change if the law is repealed? Because other polls show that once they do, once it’s broken down and polled component by component (“Do you approve of the part where your kids get to stay on your plan until they turn 26?” or “Do you approve of the part where you can be covered despite your pre-existing medical conditions?”), suddenly it dawns on them that they kind of like it.
And how about the people in Wisconsin who voted against their own self-interests? What did they not know?
Or how about those relentless birthers? Or voters who just know that President Obama is a Muslim while criticizing his attending services at the largest church affiliated with the United Church of Christ (because they disapprove of the pastor)?
Unfortunately, there are some people who, despite easy access to all kinds of information, will still believe what they want to believe, will never be convinced otherwise, and will continue to thrive on oblivion and assumption instead of knowledge and instruction. Evidence schmevidence.
Democrats lose elections when voters are uninformed and/or misinformed, when they’re ignorant of the facts, of the full story, of who the candidates are, of how our election system works, of how to register to vote, of basic civics, etc.
As we await news of today's results in the Wisconsin election that will decide Governor Scott Walker's political fate, let's ponder the latest confirmation of just how polarized the U.S. has become politically in recent years. Take a look at these results from a report issued by the Pew Research Center, showing the widening differences in political values between Democrats and Republicans:
And if you don't feel like reading the report itself, here's a short take on it by the Washington Post's Don Balz.
Do yourself the favor of reading this insightful article by John Aloyisius Farrell, who examines the polarized, dysfunctional U.S. Congress -- an institution at odds with its constitutional heritage and with the nation it is said to represent.
What can one say? Obama is a disappointment in so many ways. For sure, he has been thwarted and blocked at every turn by cynical, grotesquely partisan Republicans who care not at all about the national interest. Republicans in Congress are among the most vile people on Earth. (How's THAT for moderate commentary?!)
But it's also true that Obama has failed to show the sort of leadership that so many of us expected of him. Here is an interesting column in today's New York Times by Tom Friedman that makes a good argument to this effect. (Please note that my typical reaction to Friedman is that he is a totally arrogant, Gingrichian -- i.e., faux intellectual -- asshole who thinks he is god's gift to mankind, and I usually dismiss his putrid spooge.) But he makes sense here.
Also, see this rant by Chris Matthews (the MSNBC asshole whose arrogance is at least as bad as Gingrich's and Friedman's). He actually makes sense here, too.
Republicans, who voted against every single bill that Obama came up with to help jumpstart the economy, spent their debate last night attacking Obama for not doing enough about the economy. But their only answer is lower taxes, which ignores the fact that one third of the cost of Obama’s stimulus bill (which they opposed and now attack) was to lower taxes, and the fact that taxes right now are the lowest they have been in 60 years, yet the economy continues to go into the toilet. Oh, they also want decreased regulation, even though it was decreased regulation of banks that triggered the economic collapse in the first place. They also complained about the deficit, even though Republicans have done far more to run up the deficit than Democrats.
Why does anyone listen to them when they trot out their old, tired answers that clearly have not worked? I would love it for some Republican to suggest something new, but they all seem to be part of the Borg collective. As First Read puts it:
The other big loser of the night was a serious, substantive discussion on the economy. After spending the last few weeks criticizing the Obama administration on this subject, not a single GOP presidential candidate offered a convincing plan on how to create jobs. We heard plenty about lower taxes and less regulation. The problem: Taxes are already at their lowest level since the 1950, and that hasn’t really jump-started the economy. Moreover, there was little regulation during the Bush administration, and that didn’t produce a wave of jobs between 2001 and 2009.