Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jef says: Keeping abreast of politics

“All politics is local.”

You know the quote. Do you know who said it? It was Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill. He was a U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts from 1952 to 1987, the last 20 years of which he was Speaker of the House. Everybody everywhere remembers that quote, even if they’re not from Massachusetts and even though he said it after the first time he ran for political office.

Proving that politics isn’t necessarily local or even current.

Is that bad? Of course it is! ALL politics is bad! Which isn’t any more true than all politics being local.

Whether politics is good or bad, it sure doesn’t seem too local anymore. Blame it on a 24-hour news hole to fill among 30 gazillion cable TV and talk-radio stations, blame it on big anonymous corporate money, blame it on party politics trumping the individual, or blame it on the lazy voter, but I’d say it’s a safe bet that more people know about races from Delaware to California than know who their own Congressman is, let alone state rep.

Me, I blame it on laziness. (I blame a lot on laziness. It’s easy to do so, which makes me strangely uncomfortable.) The candidates and their backers and handlers invite us to be, assume us to be, the democratic equivalent of a three-toed sloth on a tryptophan bender. Issues are painted as black or white. Candidates are painted as purely good or purely bad. One guy, party or issue is the cause of all the trouble and one guy, party or referendum can solve it.

Come on. The world isn’t that simple, and we know it. Anyone who tells you it is can’t be trusted as a reliable source of information. Or, frankly, as anybody I care to listen to. Back when I was in school or had a real job, I had enough of acknowledging people who thought I was an indolent moron. I don’t want to hear it now.

So please, do what I’m doing. There’s still time: Find a paper, station or other source of information that tries to tell you as much as possible about all of the issues and candidates and actually bothers to acknowledge that it’s a tough choice. Then, however enlightened you are, go vote. Even if you don’t feel like you’ve got a complete grasp of it all, vote anyway. Your incomplete grasp will mix with everyone else’s incomplete grasp and it will all shake out into something useful. But if you don’t vote, you add ignorance to ignorance and get what you deserve.

With all due respect to Tip O’Neill, the best political advice I ever heard came from a guy who tended bar at a strip club, and he wasn’t even talking about politics. He said, “They do their best to get you worked up, but after a while all the boobs look pretty much the same.

“All you gotta know is the easy ones are the ones you end up paying the most for.”


La Professora said...

A good source of information for voters is the non-partisan League of Women Voters. I tell my students to use, which is run by the LWW.

Netagene said...

Just what I've been looking for - an answer OTHER THAN MINE to a friend who won't vote because he doesn't know enough (he's got 4+ years of college!) and because he believes all the candidates sling mud and tell lies! I like the quotation to this effect: "The way that evil wins is for good people to do nothing". Thanks for writing about it! Because I am unable to drive (legally blind) and the local buses do not go to my polling place, I get an absentee ballot. I've not missed many elections in the 45 years I've been of voting age.