When People Stop Caring

For the past couple of days, we’ve had some serious health issues to contend with here at Apt. 11D. It would be in bad taste to talk publicly about those issues, beyond some notices in the comment section for regulars, but let’s just say that those problems have been all consuming.

Iowa, the State of the Union, and the impeachment verdict have gotten only cursory attention from myself. When I haven’t been busy with doctors, I’ve been anesthesizing my brain with romance novels, gossip blogs, and dark chocolate. If someone like me — an over-educated news junkie — isn’t paying attention, that’s bad news. It means that nobody else is paying attention.

Part of the hubris of any blogger or political pundit or hyper-tweeter is that they feel that they can make a difference through their words, no matter how small and insignificant their blog may be. We all think we can change the world, and that’s why we do it. If I’m feeling powerless, that’s bad news. It means that the ordinary people don’t feel like they matter.

Only 172,000 people showed up to vote in Iowa, after a year of hard work and money by over a dozen candidates. And that was before the counting fiasco. How many people will bother to vote next time?

Compared to other political moments, like the Kavanaugh hearings, the impeachment hearings didn’t attract many viewers. Maybe because the outcome was obvious. There was no drama.

Random thought: Would John McCain have made a difference?

All this is important. We have an unhinged president who is running our country like he’s at the wheel of the white SUV with OJ Simpson along an LA highway. He’s reckless, stupid, and selfish. He doesn’t obey the unwritten laws that have kept politicians in check in our country for two centuries, never mind the written laws. I fear that our nation will never recover.

The worst tragedy is what happens when people stop paying attention. When people like me get caught up in our personal lives — no matter how serious and real — and don’t turn on the television, stop tweeting, stop writing, then that’s when democracy dies. Yes, the world keeps spinning. Yes, our problems are real. But those problems will only get worse, if our political system goes to hell and stops doing the little that it already does for our most vulnerable.

So, I’m shaking myself out of my personal crisis and getting back to business.

10 thoughts on “When People Stop Caring

  1. But lots of people are paying attention, and are enthusiastic about some or all of what Trump is doing. I’m not one of those people, particularly, but they are my friends and relatives, and I don’t think democracy will die if they get their way. FWIW, I suspect that a group of construction workers would mount a more robust defense of democracy than a group of college professors.


  2. If it’s any consolation, I am one of those ordinary peoplr (thank you for that, btw. usually people like you call us “proles”), and while I don’t have the time at this moment to be up-to-the-minute either by television or online, I am paying attention and so are my coworkers. It’s just that we’ve already reached our conclusions.

    Politics isn’t baseball for me. I already know I’m supporting Bernie Sanders, and the latest orange outrage isn’t changing that. Currently, the outrage that has attracted the most attention in my world is the announcement of the Int’l (IBEW) to endorse Biden. To say this is unpopular with the membership is the understatement of the decade. ALL the online IBEW pages are on fire about this. So there’s that.

    People are paying attention. It’s just that no one is paying attention to the people. Or worse, making up stories about us that are more comforting to them. We’ve .ade our decisions. I do not believe another four years are a foregone conclusion, but that depends on how much the Democratic party wants to double down on neoliberalism. If they make a curve to the FDR left, it’s game on. If not, it’s a repeat of 2016 with droves of voters staying home, because the Important People somehow decided we could always be taken for granted.

    The game changed because the players changed. There was a generational sea change that still isn’t being paid attention to.


    1. But you are not an ordinary person.

      For the sake of this post, I was thinking about ordinary person, not in terms of income or occupation, but in terms of political interest/involvement. People who read and comment on blogs are all highly unusual people, regardless of their day jobs. We’re ALL outliers. While our thoughts and behavior are, of course, interesting and important, we should never fool ourselves and think that our actions/thoughts are in any way normal, average, typical.

      Admittedly, your theories about a class-based, generational revolution are intriguing, but I haven’t seen evidence of it yet. Maybe we’ll see it soon, but turnout in Iowa was awful.


      1. Admittedly, your theories about a class-based, generational revolution are intriguing, but I haven’t seen evidence of it yet.

        Huh? I don’t believe I’ve offered any such theories of the sort. I’m just observing behavior. The Dems lost 2016 primarily because of the number of people in key rust belt states that sat at home rather than voted for Hillary. Gen X and the Millenials have different voting practices than Boomers, some based on practical matters (like the Millenial I’ve been working with—neither he nor his wife went to caucus because between work and child care—he has two jobs, she has one, they have four children total together in a “his, hers, and ours” situation, they couldn’t manage the logistics*) and some based on how the different generations approach problem-solving, which in turn is based on the different outcomes their experiences have taught them to expect.

        The Democratic Autopsy. If Trump is going to be defeated, the lessons from this have to be learned. The number-one-with-a-bullet lesson: when people who usually don’t vote do, Democrats win. How to get them out there? Better throw them some red meat. Say what you want about Republicans, but they are doing a much better job at delivering for their base. The de-facto vote strike of 2016 may have put Trump into office, but it did a couple of other things too: (1) got pundits and consultants talking about the working class, using the term “working class”, and (2) put real kitchen table policies like Medicare for All, affordable college, raising the minimum wage, and an aggressive infrastructure plan on the front burner instead of in the background, as “dream” issues. Generationally, Boomers will still vote if you tell them the issues that matter most to their immediate life are “dream” issues that can be addressed later, if they just tighten up and wait a little longer. Gen X, and especially the Millenials will just sit at home, because their experience is that “later” never comes (a la Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown). Now they’ve received solid proof that withholding their votes can be a more effective political strategy at fast-tracking their issues than voting.

        Which means good luck trying to get them to vote for a turd like Bloomberg.

        *I don’t think enough is said about how institutions have not evolved re:child care. There is still an assumption that some magical child-care fairy is going to take care of it, a full two generations after the women’s movement. I’m on the older side of Gen X, and the majority of us grew up with full time working mothers.


  3. A friend shared on FB:

    “One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair – thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”, — Clarissa Estes.

    So, first, take care of yourself, second, your family, third the people you love. And, yes, sometimes taking care of those people requires politics. But care doesn’t have to mean following every detail.

    I know, for example, that I will vote for the Democratic candidate. Do I have preferences? Yes, but I don’t care about the details of the primaries or trying to guess what will happen. I do not have the expertise to predict who is more likely to beat Trump. I believe there are things the Democrats need to do even if they do not improve the chances of victory (i.e. impeach the president, which is an example of Eiie Wiesel’s, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”. But we can protest in the way that works for us.


  4. I do think that if the study of policy and politics was my area of expertise, the level of engagement I might expect of myself might be different. I know I’m not a “ordinary” person (though I also suspect much of the time that there are no ordinary people). If we are using those words as a code for people who are unengaged in politics, yes, we should be aware of them and recognize that our miniature worlds aren’t everyones. But I don’t feel I have the expertise to reach them.


  5. On the radio, I was hearing the reports about Wuhan, and the demand by the government that people “turn in” their relatives to be taken to quarantine centers, ones that at least some people believe are places “people go to die”. We’ve seen the Chinese people protest only to be crushed into compliance, which then becomes the norm.

    And, in a related note, an article “Would you stand up to an oppressive regime or would you conform? Here’s the science ”



  6. My coworkers talk about politics on the regular, and as far as I know I’m the only one who “comments on blogs.” When the Kavanaugh and impeachment stuff was on, the tv in the lunch room was tuned to CNN all day long. I’m “any Democrat” in the general, although I’ll vote Warren if given the opportunity in the primary, so I only pay attention to scandals that might change my vote.


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