Thursday, February 25, 2010
The Great Convinced: Voting From The Middle
Today I see too many people suffer the same misunderstanding of politics. The Democrats are only as liberal as their most conservative members. This has proven true on health care, and will continue to dog them as long as there remains a large portion of Americans who don’t understand political philosophy well enough to not be caught in an endless sway between the rhetorical legerdemain of focus group-tested messaging and Pavlovian talking points.
The American middle is a morass of ignorant nonchalance, dragging us all down to its common denominator of political and social stagnation. The right and left may be just as delusional or misinformed, but at least they are trying to take a stand for something. How many among us seem as though they could easily vote Democratic or Republican if someone just spent enough time convincing them.
The Great Convinced just want to get along. Which is fine if you're deciding on party decorations, or where to grab a bite. But shouldn't a basic duty of every citizen in a democracy be to take responsibility for their privileged membership of a free society and at least try to do a little research on why one might think what they think.
That is if they plan on voting. And they do. But they swing wildly from one party to another. Is the candidate handsome? Does she read the right books? Does she seem like a nice person? Does he drive a truck? One gets the feeling that American democracy is little more than a glorified student election, in which whoever can come up with the nicest font or funniest joke wins the prize.
There are tremendous differences between the two major parties. And while I'm sure there are many individuals for whom single issues like abortion or gay rights pull them in opposing internal directions. But I think the majority of independent-minded voters aren't actually very :"minded" at all, basing their vote instead on superficial impressions of a candidate's personality or fancy sloganeering.
So all of this seems rather cynical. And it is. But the practical take-away in all of this may be that if we want America to be the vibrant electorate that it deserves, we need to continue to encourage our friends and neighbors into actively reflecting on their lives, whether by direct conversation or simply through the slow and steady emphasis on thoughtfulness in daily life - the books we read, the movies we watch, the ways in which we choose to engage ourselves.