Scott Rasmussen’s survey results are interesting and revealing — “The American majority: You really don’t care (about the politics), do you?” Aug. 29 — but I feel uneasy about his interpretation of the statistics. He says that 53 percent of citizens don’t connect their concerns to the political process and that the “politically obsessed” don’t want to understand this large group of fellow voters. Like Rasmussen, I find it alarming that a majority of citizens evidently don’t even talk about politics, which may help explain why barely half actually vote in general elections, and shockingly fewer in primaries.
But it seems to me that it’s not the “politically obsessed” who are out of touch with the “majority,” but rather that the “rest of the country” is somewhat passive, under- or misinformed, and apparently oblivious to the responsibilities of citizenship. Seems to me these disconnected folks should get better informed, engage more with the political process, communicate with their elected representatives to let them know their concerns — and stop complaining and criticizing from the far side of the chasm that currently divides us. I remember a billboard years ago that said that if you ignore your teeth, they’ll go away. Democracy is a lot like that.
I am trying not to take Rasmussen’s characterization personally, by the way. I hardly consider myself “politically obsessed,” but I do watch news programs every evening, read the Star Tribune every morning and read and listen to a wide range of news and opinions in various other media. I talk with family members and friends about politics. I participate in a small “salon” of fellow concerned citizens. I show up at demonstrations when I can. I have worked on campaigns and served as an election judge. But mainly I get up on Election Day and go vote. If this means I’m “obsessed,” well, call it what you will — but “engaged” is more what it feels like, and even at that, I always feel that there’s a lot more I could and should do.
Thus, I am very grateful to my fellow citizens — from both parties — who run for office, who manage and volunteer on campaigns, who register voters, who organize or attend caucuses, who write, call, march and otherwise demonstrate to keep our representatives accountable, who work for state, local and federal government — to name but a fraction of the things it takes to keep our democratic society functioning. Thank goodness these politically obsessed Americans are willing to do this work on behalf of all Americans.
So I can’t help but think that if the 53 percent who say they feel disaffected or disconnected, and who think we-the-obsessed-few are out of touch, paid closer attention, got better informed and engaged more in the political process, we’d have fewer alienated citizens, a less discordant society and a more functional government of and by we-the-people.
And maybe more satisfying statistics.
Maria Klein lives in Minnetonka.