we won’t get fooled again 22

With the enthusiasm and attention being paid to this year’s election, I find it increasingly odd the way America’s new-found interest in such a fundamental feature of our democracy is being characterized by the corporate “news” media. On this morning’s Today show, this caricature took on a new face – American voters are “obsessed” with politics to a pathological degree and need help immediately.

I won’t blame you if you didn’t make it all the way through the segment.  I had a hard time watching as my extremely healthy and long-overdue “obsession” with politics was painted as a character flaw.  Where have these folks lived for the last 40 years that an American political awakening is denigrated as a psychological condition in need of a support group?  I can’t name a single more important development in my lifetime that compares to millions of people waking up to the fact that their vote does indeed matter.

Rather than telling voters to seek help, the media should be encouraging us to continue dissecting the issues and contacting our representatives and staying connected to our communities and looking for new ways to get involved.  We have an enormous opportunity this year to completely change the face of our political landscape, hence forever changing the face of our nation.  The American voter can finally assert its rights, roles and responsibilities under the Constitution in a way never done before because not long after the civil rights movement ensured everyone had the right to vote, nobody asserted that right.  This is really the only way to ensure  that elected officials live up their responsibilities as well.  Our system isn’t broken because of lobbyists or corporations or even corrupt politicians.  They are symptoms of a larger problem.  We had a great system that  continued to improve over a period of nearly 200 years.  Problem is, four decades ago we were convinced that politics didn’t matter, following a period of traumatic events, and the American electorate went to sleep.

We didn’t wake up until this year.

Turnout for general elections rarely gets above 60% in America, rarely above 40% for mid-term elections or the non-presidential election years if you are unfamiliar with the term. The average turnout for primary elections is under ten percent on most years and in most places.  In 2006, after widespread dissatisfaction with Washington DC and the policies our country was pursuing, turnout was a dismal 43% and very little changed.  This year has been drastically different.  Already, primary turnout is in the 30% range for most states, three times the normal rate.  Should that translate in a similar fashion to the general election, we could see a national turnout at unprecedented levels.  I am guessing in the 75% range.  This would be in keeping with other advanced democracies (and some not so advanced democracies) from around the world.

This isn’t obsession.  It’s survival.

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22 thoughts on “we won’t get fooled again

  • Lux Umbra Dei

    Hi Jason, its so good to see you blogging again!

    Found a used book in bookstore you would love: “The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders who Transformed America” by James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn. You would love it.

    But back to the topic. It might be wrong to infer that an alarmed “establishment” is trying to return the electorate back to the latter’s long slumber, so as to be able to run the country efficiently without the obstruction of the untutored populace.

    It is in the media’s interest that people be passionately involved with things: football, talent contests, kidnapped folks, celebrity arrests, and politics. Moneywise, for them there probably is no difference between say a Dance with the Stars contestant, Britney Spears, and Barack Obama. All generate revenue.

    So it really is odd that they would push disinterest and disattachment…they would lose viewership wouldn’t they?

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Thanks, Lux. I have been chewing on things a little longer than normal before posting of late, this one just struck me this morning because it was such an odd caricature of what is happening this year with the electorate.

      You pose good questions that echo the ones I had when writing. Like most things with the media, I chalk it up to lazy analysis and an inability to think in three dimensions about complex subjects.

      I suppose they won’t recognize the paradigm shift until they see revenues dry up as most “obsessed” voters move online for their daily fix.

  • worthlesscitizen

    Ah, trusty pop culture expert Willie Geist has all the answers: “Well, this campaign is about to dump us in a couple days, and we’re gonna have to rediscover ourselves.”

    The corporate news really does think of the election as just another topic, like the Jon Benet murder or the OJ trial. Are they trying to lose credibility, or is this just the unwieldy machine jamming its own gears out of poor craftsmanship?

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Yeah, Willie is great at oversimplification of things, though it is probably genetic.

      Like the republicans this year, the media has totally missed the true nature of the phenomenon we are seeing in this year’s election. I suspect they change their methods as serious topics move online and all they are left with is covering Paris Hilton’s latest reality show.

      It will take the mass Exodus of viewers to non-traditional sources before they start giving us what we want again but never really articulated strongly by changing our viewing habits.

  • dijamo

    I *loved* this post Jason and you’re exactly right. I think this could be a watershed moment where people don’t walk away from the booth thinking their job is done. Obama if he wins will be facing a minority party in Congress looking for their new Newt Gingrich to obstruct the democratic agenda and plan for their 2010 comeback. Obama will need strong leadership in the House and Senate supporting him. They will need our vigilance and support to stop the GOP obstructionism and putting political games first, not country. The national obsession with politics is a good thing and I’m hoping it continues after November 4th.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I actually think what we are seeing is the complete disintegration of the modern GOP this year. I believe, and will work hard to ensure, a new republican party will rise from the ashes of the old. It will once again be an opposition party and not an obstructionist party. I hope for a day where democrats and republicans argue over who has the most sustainable policies and methods.

    • CVille Dem

      349834938 times a day? Is that all?

      Oh, you probably start counting when you get up in the morning and don’t include all those times you log in after midnight when you’re sleeping!

      • Jason Everett Miller

        Too funny, but so true. I am very glad I completely discounted polls after New Hampshire was off by twenty points. They clearly have no idea what they are doing or are unable to modify their methods to address a changing electorate.

        • Hilarym99

          Ha! Well, I’ve tried to cut down. The other 75% of my time is devoted to obsessively checking about 20 different blog/news sites to make sure no game-changers suddenly appear.

          It takes me at least twice as long to do any work b/c I think, oh, I’ll just check one site real quick and then, Whoosh! I’m pulled into the vortex of the political internet.

  • Donal

    The primary functions of network TV are to:

    a) keep you watching, and

    b) keep you shopping.

    A concern with politics takes one away from American Idol and WalMart.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      True enough about the goals of TV, but I would think they could turn this new-found “obsession” of ours into something worthwhile. Like, oh I don’t know, quality reporting. Talking hairdos indeed.

  • Ginny in CO

    I keep finding myself reading something like this and wondering why I still drop my jaw over the ideas these dolts put out for serious consideration. If the founding fathers and subsequent generations had not been so obsessed, the Constitution would not have kept the US as a functional nation for over 2 centuries.

    If voters of the last 40 years had not been so oblivious to what was going on because they didn’t want to get involved in the making of sausage, we wouldn’t be trying to get out of 2 millitary operations, mountains of debt, a recession, global energy and environmental crises, etc etc etc. Plus the notion that there is ‘no difference’ who gets elected because they are all corrupt, and no point in trying to hold them accountable in the next election. I’ve been fuming at the lackluster political involvement and voter turnout for 4 decades. And these TV personalities think there is something psychologically wrong with it? How about the amount of money, time, land and water we devote to people who want to hit little white balls with long clubs?

    Ok, I have to go get a poll fix at 538 and try to get a few more things done that do not involve a computer or politics. Not psychotic, just hoping that if the future of world looks better, my kids might decide they will have children after all.
    Meditation and some good jazz may also be in order.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I hear you, Ginny. I usually find myself putting on the Damien Rice if things get too chaotic. I think what we are seeing is the rebirth of a nation this year. Not at the federal level or with electing Obama, but with the huge amount of interest that everyday citizens have in the process. That genie won’t be going back in the bottle.

  • Matt Weiss

    I agree with you Jason.

    I also have said to my wife (and she to me), “what the f**k are we going to talk about after this campaign is over.”

    I’m hopeful it will be about Democratic cabinet selections and clearing the way for unconditional negotiations with some nations we are long overdue in talking to directly. That’d be pretty consuming. Who knows? Maybe the rest of America will get interested in that sort of trivial diversion, too. Worse things could happen.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      We are going to talk about who we’re pushing for the 2010 primaries, which will be all local. We will need to ensure our freaking representatives know we are still watching as well. I anticipate this new-found “obsession” to quickly become the norm. If not, we’ll be right back where we are now a couple of decades.

  • NickinOz

    Can I just briefly go OT and say a big w00t to my twin homelands, Australia & New Zealand – both have great voter turnout, although in Australia voting is compulsory, which I find to be hilariously ironic.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Yeah, that is a funny irony – compulsory voting. A friend from the UK mentioned the same thing. It does lead to high turnout, though, which is a good thing.

  • NickinOz

    Can I just briefly go OT and say a big w00t to my twin homelands, Australia & New Zealand – both have great voter turnout, although in Australia voting is compulsory, which I find to be hilariously ironic.

  • wvbiker

    Istrongly agree with your post and recommendations. I especially agree with this statement:

    “I can’t name a single more important development in my lifetime that compares to millions of people waking up to the fact that their vote does indeed matter.”

    I graduated from Highschool at the end of the Viet Nam era. I just missed the draft and the calling of my # 41 draft number- my friends and I debated hours over what we would do if it looked like we would be drafted-we never did reach any hard conclusions.

    Then in college while working towards a business degree I raptly watched the Watergate investigation developments as they morphed towards impeachment. I admired Woodward and Bernstein’s efforts such that like many others who did, I considered changing majors to journailsm. I concluded that there were enough others going in that direction. I figured that the profession of journalism had a strong enough foundation that our democracy would be secure for years to come.

    The profession has been horrendous the last 25 years. The Today show segment is emblamatic of the narcissism and personal career concerns of our present day journalists, as well as their editor leaders.

    Damn, I wish that I had changed majors back then. I cannot predict that I would have been successful, but I am sure that I could have contributed positively.

    Hopefully, this election will wake up today’s journalism students as to their proper place in our government and society.