Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why the Cantor "Adreneline Earthquake" is Almost Meaningless

As I've taken on the hectic job filling in for my husband's assistant--who's out on maternity leave--I've had precious little time to keep up my blog. I've decided to change that, and aim to post at least one pithy thought every day.

I'll also get around to posting the drafts I never quite finished when real life intervened.

Eric Cantor not pleased he caused an adrenaline earthquake
But today, the politico-sphere is alive with shock that Eric Cantor's re-election campaign for the 7th Virginia Congressional District crashed in the Republican primary, overcome by Tea Party candidate David Brat. When the House Majority Leader's ousted by a poorly-funded, little-known challenger, you get what Newt Gingrich called "A scale eight earthquake."

Consultant to the GOP Ron Bonjean told CNN, "This victory is the 'Pulp Fiction' equivalent of the adrenaline needle plunged into the chest of the Tea Party."

These are the kinds of images I can do without. And I think most voters--I'd venture almost all women voters--would hear such heart-stopping, domicile-obliterating declarations and laugh.

We live in a culture where 29% of the populace can't name the Vice President, because  ignorance about politics is no big deal. Where far more copies of People Magazine are sold than the New York Times. (You'll never guess the highest-circulation magazine. See below) I haven't seen a poll about this yet, but I'd wager that only five percent of voters can actually define the gelatinous beliefs of the Tea Party.

People who tell pollsters they're "independents" frequently prefer that label to "uninformed." There are so many politicians, and they're constantly running for office and interrupting TV shows with their commercials. These older guys in suits look pretty much the same, and their voices blend into their announcers' caveats until even earnest efforts to identify them fail. Some girls entering a Miley Cyrus concert in New Jersey were asked by Fox News' Jeff Watters to identify pictured politicians and fumbled their IDs until a mugshot of Katie Perry appeared in the mix.

Shows what the young electorate knows. And cares about. So the "earthquake" rubble Newt peruses and the "adrenaline" CNN guest Bonjean invokes bounce around the echo chamber of political news for their two-day lifespan and sink to the depths when displaced by the next earth-shattering gaffe, misstep or distraction.

I believe it's reasonable to expect voters to have some basic knowledge when they decide who will rule our land. They should at least know the structure of the system, and how the candidate they're asked to choose fits in. They should know something about the people for whom they cast ballots. Maybe there should be a pre-primary quiz, something like but easier than the citizenship exam native born Americans skipped. Most every school district requires a government class for high-schoolers, but the amount that sticks in their brains is practically is nil.

Clearly, no knowledge-test for voting will ever exist. Apparently it's even too much to ask voters to show the drivers' licenses in their wallets--and how much brain-power does it take for THAT?

But the lack of interest in "who's who representing you" will surely continue. Two rules about politics: people care mainly about stuff that's bothering and buffeting them, and emotions always trump logic. If voters think a candidate addresses their needs or makes them feel that justice is done, they'll come vote. Every other political crisis neither nudges the Richter Scale or pumps up their adrenaline, and when the hyperbole hits the top-of-the-hour car radio news, they'll just change the channel.

*The highest-circulation magazine is the AARP Magazine (American Association of Retired People) with 23,721,626 circulation, followed closely by the AARP newsletter. Third, with just 8,196,081 circulation is...The Costco Connection. People is 12th, with 3,553,420, and the New York Times' circulation is 1,897,890 daily and 2,391,986 Sunday.




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