National Pubic Radio does a lot of those person on the street interviews with prospective primary voters, and while they are not good for my blood pressure, they force me to confront an inconvenient truth. Here are the Republican voters I've heard recently:
- A guy whose number one priority is getting the U.S. out of Iraq. He has decided to vote for John McCain because McCain's a military veteran, and that means he's the guy who knows how to end the war and bring the troops home. One major problem with that theory is that McCain has absolutely no intention of bringing the troops home. On the contrary, he says that he doesn't mind if they stay there for 100 years.
- A woman who says that she's going to vote for Mitt Romney because "he's a committed Christian, and he isn't ashamed of it." Uh, lady -- I've got news for you.
- A guy who is also going to vote for Mitt because "he looks presidential, he sounds presidential, and he did things in Massachusetts that have never been done before." In fact, the only thing Romney ever did in Massachusetts that he hasn't completely and utterly repudiated was to try and fail to repeal same sex marriage. True, that hadn't been done before.
The fact is that election campaigns are largely contests for the votes of people who know almost nothing about public policy and have no concept of what is at stake. People who are well informed and who vote based on policy just aren't all that persuadable by the methods available to candidates -- 30 and 60 second advertisements and debate sound bites. They already know what they want and they know who is in favor of what. There isn't enough time or space to make reasoned arguments that might actually persuade a thoughtful voter, and the completely idiotic corporate media just exacerbate the problem. So it's the votes of the ignorant and the barely interested that are at stake.
My youthful idealism has had to give way, in part, to a recognition that our republic is unlikely ever to be a mechanism for translating people's real interests into government action. It may -- and right now I can only say "may" because we are certainly tottering on the brink -- provide a firewall against the worst excesses of tyranny. But that's about the best we can hope for.
Nevertheless, for me, la lucha continua.