Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How fragile democracy really is

This is just a quick followup to yesterday's post, "Reflections of a GOP operative." A column in The Atlantic quotes another retired Congressional staffer:
I don't think people realize how fragile democracy really is. The 2012 campaign is currently looking to be the final nail in the coffin unless people start to understand what is going on.

One thing that especially resonated with me about Mike's piece is the importance of "low information" voters. The mainstream media absolutely fails to understand how little attention average Americans really pay to what goes on in all forms of government. During our 2008 race, our pollster taught me (hard to believe it took me 24 years to learn this) that the average voter spends only 5 minutes thinking about for whom to vote for Congress. All the millions of dollars of TV ads, all the thousands of robo-calls and door-knocks, and it all comes down to having a message that will stick in the voters' minds during the 5 minutes before they walk into the voting booth.

The media likes to call this group "independents," which implies that they think so long and deeply about issues that they refuse to be constrained by the philosophy of either party. There may be a couple of people out there who fit that definition, but those are not the persuadable voters campaigns are trying to capture. Every campaign is trying to develop its candidate into an easy-to-remember slogan that makes him or her more appealing than the other guy. Actually, because negative campaigning is so effective, they are more often trying to portray the opponent as more objectionable ("I guess I'll vote for the crook because at least he won't slash my Medicare").

I'm writing because now that I have been out of the Beltway Bubble, I have gained a little more perspective on how real people see the work of Washington, and I am scared that they are close to revolt. The debt ceiling debate in particular had me screaming at the TV on more than one occasion because both sides botched it so badly. I would like to hope that news outlets like yours could play a positive role in helping to educate people. But I'm feeling pretty pessimistic at the moment.

Yes, I'm feeling pretty pessimistic myself. But if we give up, we're guaranteed the worst outcome. If we give up, what kind of people are we? There is no giving up. If we lose, we lose. And we keep on fighting, because no loss is final unless you quit trying.

There is no alternative. We don't quit. We can't quit. I'd rather be optimistic right now, but that's just too bad. Pessimism isn't enough to stop me from trying.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In relation to that "low information" voter, and the vulgar nature of political warfare employed by the right -
this post from Andrew Sullivan really struck a nerve: