Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oooohhh, shiny!

Chucklin' Harry and Friends
I found this CNN ARTICLE sort of interesting. ARE Americans losing interest in the Health Care debate? The article claims that no, people are still extremely interested and invested in the bill, whether for or against...but ARE they?
Perhaps I have the wrong sort of friends, but many of my friends have either forgotten about the Health Care debate, or have put it on the back-burner in favor of the apparently more "pressing" concerns of the day. In fact, most people that I know outside of academic circles are already looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and the "biggest, wildest, craziest" New Year's parties that they're going to throw.
Tocqueville certainly mentioned something like this. He noted that it's important to catch people's attention in order to get them to expend energy on politics...that people are innately prone to distraction and focusing on their own personal goals and issues--so the only thing that can catch a person's attention is something shiny and new, something important and overly bright; a BIG ISSUE! Only when people focus directly on a large issue will they be motivated enough to ward off despotism by engaging actively in the democratic political process. Tocqueville was worried about French democracy's decline into political inattentiveness, which he claimed was a direct threat to democracy--if the people don't pay attention, it's easier for those in charge to abuse the people and the system.
So is America now at the stage France was in during Tocqueville's life? CNN says that people are paying attention, at least for such a large bill...but there is already evidence of rot at the edges. It's fairly common knowledge that the American people, by and large, simply don't get involved in local elections to any worthy extent. Take a moment to ask yourself: Who is on your city's council? Who is your mayor? Your city manager? City comptroller? Judges? See my point? People don't pay attention to local politics, only national politics and big issues. It's quite possible that America is finding itself in a bad spot----if more people than just my degenerate friends are already moving on to other issues (with the fate of Health Care not yet determined), then America truly is heading down the dangerous road toward despotism described by Tocqueville.
Let's just hope it's ONLY my friends that have forgotten.


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