Quietly released on a Friday Night
Part 1: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
It’s All Your Fault! And why it isn’t
By Dean Heagle
In writing on the subject of the 2016 presidential election, I found that exploring any one topic, consistently shed light on more and more details. Gladly, the passage of time has helped solidify and expand these ideas. Thus, what was originally intended as a short article has become a four part series, replete with sidebars and additional analysis.
The unlikely election of president Trump was made possible in part because over 41.5% of the eligible population just couldn’t be bothered enough to vote. They couldn’t find time, or worse, they just didn’t care whether Trump or Clinton would be president. They somehow believed the outcome would not affect them at all.
Apathy and indifference were in full play this election season. What was not in short supply was an abundance of snark, cheap jokes and denial. Many just threw up their hands. We couldn’t believe that both candidates seemed so flawed. Many feared the hell out of Trump who they saw as reckless and egotistical, but many also, for a variety of reasons, couldn’t stand the thought of a Clinton presidency. Contrary to creating excitement, this was the election that made people want to put their heads in the sand.
Voter turnout in the U.S. is ranked at 31st out of 35 developed countries tracked by Pew Research. People have many excuses for not voting. It’s true that having elections on Tuesdays is antiquated and inconvenient. Long lines at the polls and confusion about polling locations are contributing factors that make it more difficult to vote. But perhaps the biggest reason that people don’t vote is because they are apathetic and indifferent. One reason for this apathy is that many people don’t see meaningful differences between the candidates. Many people suppose that all politicians are crooked. And many people live in denial and believe that it really doesn’t matter who controls their government.
Many of us seem to walk around in a haze. And we are always in a rush. We are always busy, working, relaxing, getting and spending. We choose from thousands of songs and channels on a variety of devices. And the smart phone is always with us, always begging us to touch it. We have hundreds of “friends” on our social networks and yet we may feel more alienated from each other than ever before. And this goes on relentlessly each and every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a night with presidential debates or even the day of the election. The constant drumbeat of working, rushing and pursuit of entertainment never gives us a break or a moment to stop and think.
It’s an understatement to say that Americans tend away from civic-mindedness. We have become comfortably numb in how we view our government. Most of us expect the government to keep rolling along without us. It’s viewed as something outside of our control, something we probably complain about or might even be the brunt of our jokes, but something we believe we have little effect upon. And perhaps even more importantly, we feel that government only affects us in superficial ways. That no matter who is in charge, that our lives will go on about the same.
There is little in our culture which leads us to be involved or even interested in politics. We have been trained to be good consumers. Every corporation makes use of every media to constantly compete for our eyeballs. It’s hard to pay attention to the presidential debate when simultaneously there is so much else competing for our attention. We have become entertainment junkies. Politics does not fit neatly into our worldviews. And voting and serving on a jury might be the only civic obligations that we will even consider. And at the same time, we will often do anything to avoid jury duty. And as for voting? We will get around to voting that if we can spare the time.
FROM HERE TO THERE EVENTUALLY
The capitalist orientation where the majority of activity revolves around getting and spending allows little time for other pursuits or activities. Individuals slog along trying to make the best of their circumstances but feel alienated from their communities. They may see wrongs and injustices in the world, but they feel powerless to bring about change. And this mindset creates apathy and a feeling of helplessness. It’s as if the system were designed to intentionally keep the average person down.
This helps explain why so many Americans are apathetic about politics. But moreover, it’s that the political sphere does not fit neatly into the rest of American culture. While some may give money to their favored candidates, far fewer take the additional step of volunteering their time. We are not motivated or trained to do the grunt work that is really needed. But right now what we need is more boots on the ground.
The unlikely event of a Trump presidency took place in the environment of apathy and indifference by a populace that felt powerless. But imagine for a moment, even a slight shift in our cultural priorities. Imagine a new awareness where civic-mindedness and politics not only really mattered, but could be molded and directed even by average citizens. Imagine an electorate that was empowered by a much higher level of community involvement. And if this was the case, elections and even the candidates would be much different.
If more people were involved in their communities, it would cumulatively benefit the nation as a whole. Then, it’s hard to imagine the level of apathy and indifference which made this last election possible. And it would be hard to believe that someone as unsuitable as Trump would ever be elected again, simply because the general population would be so much more aware and engaged. There would be so many other better candidates. And another Trump wouldn’t stand a chance.
LINKS: (Part 1 of 4)
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
NEXT: Election 2016 Analysis (Part 2 of 4)
THE MYTH OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA