On a number of occasions in the past I have postulated that most people (American and otherwise) don’t care about politics at their abstract macro level and they only care about them at their micro level. I still believe this and I really don’t get why most people don’t seem to agree with me. So I’ll delve a little deeper and try some more to convince you. Take a look anywhere around the world where people get to elect representatives. Look at Africa and Iraq and Palestine. Look here in America. Time and time again people are amazed that the democratic process doesn’t seem to work as intended. I say that it works perfectly as intended. The people who vote decide who to elect. The problem is that nobody who matters ever votes.
Let me go back a step or two and lets take a look at Palestine. I’ve heard in a number of places that their democratic process is flawed and that its people essentially voted for terrorism and voted for the death and destruction of Israel. I believe that nothing could be further from the truth. Even before 9/11 60 minutes was doing stories about Hamas and how in the entire nation, their organization was the only one providing schools and fixing the streets and building temples for the people there. Everyone should know that this group has done exceptionally well at providing the people of Palestine what they needed most and they have for a number of years. Once they decided to enter the elections is it any mystery that they won? The people, I would argue, only care about sending their children to school and only really care about having their local needs filled. I would say that on average these people can’t relate at all to the bigger issues that Hamas is about and really don’t care. These people weren’t voting for terrorism. They were voting for schools and fixed potholes.
In Iraq it’s similar. These folks simply want some security and electricity. They don’t care who is running the country as long as those needs are met.
Lets look at Africa, where warlords control almost the entire continent. Do you think that most of the population there knows or even cares about the atrocious things these warlords do? Most of these villagers care about 2 things: food and shelter. If they can make it through the next year and be fed and have a roof over their heads they will support anyone who can provide for them. If their village is one of the ones affected by killings and rapes (which happen all the time in Africa), surely those issues will take precedence but how many villages, percentage-wise, are affected? It comes down to necessity.
Skip politics and look at America. I grew up in South Philly where mob hits happened all the time, where the mafia still runs illegal gambling halls and probably controls a bunch of other stuff. Overall they are a bad organization, but you know what? 99% of the residents don’t care and love these guys because they take care of the neighborhoods, they keep them safe, they don’t directly harm anyone outside of the “family”. Again, here are criminals living amongst us yet we residents protect them because they take care of our local needs better than the government.
Now look at our American government and look at the main needs of the American worker. We have ample food and shelter and we have good streets and acceptable schools. For us, our needs are finding good jobs and having healthcare, and yup, being able to watch American Idol in peace on our sofas. These are the issues we care about. If we don’t have a job, we surely don’t care about what’s going on in Iraq. If we don’t have a job we could care less about everything happening on the national front. We don’t care so we don’t vote.
Big issues also have the property that they are hard to grasp. As an example, look at an easy to grasp issue and really think about how the regular person on the street relates to it. How about this statement? “Iran is getting close to having a nuclear bomb”. Sure I’m against Iran having nuclear weapons, but can I really truly relate to that issue? There are so many tenuous connections to be made between that statement being true and me dying directly from it. Also, do I really believe that America can really stop this from happening? Further, do I really think that one president would do better at stopping it from happening than another? Of course not. This issue doesn’t ‘touch’ me so as much as I’d like it to pressure me to go vote, I know that my vote does nothing to change this issue. But I do know that electing the right mayor would help me get my trash picked up on time.
I don’t have the statistics but I bet that if we looked at them we would see that on average, the typical voter would have a job, have at least a median income, have health insurance, and have cable tv. Who would this group vote for? Is it any wonder the R’s control everything? Only the rich are voting. I bet if we counted that group, they would comprise only half of our nation (if that). The people who vote are people that have a vested interest in the politicians they vote for. The others simply don’t care. The key to getting elected in America (on any level, national or local) is to really appeal to the people on a local/micro level because that is universally what people really care about.