Understanding the Difference Between Stupidity and Apathy
This weekend, I decided that we’d play a game called “Are you more American than a Vilifer” with our audience. I figured I’d ask two audience volunteers questions about Minnesota and American politics to see which one of them knew more.
Several of the questions I asked are standard questions on the naturalization test. They are things people who want to become citizens of our country are expected to know.
Now understand, I expected that they would do poorly. I had several “easy” questions prepared just to ensure that they got a few answers right.
The results were worse than I expected.
Asked to name up to three of the eight members of the Minnesota delegation to the House of Representatives, the four of them were able to come up with a combined score of zero. That’s right. Not a one of them could name their own Representative. Hell, not one of them could name Michele Bachmann!
Now that is bad. It is equally bad that out of the four of them, only one was able to name the US Senator who is up for reelection this year. I realize that Klobuchar is going to win in a cake walk but with the election just over a week away, they didn’t know who was on the ballot.
In fact, the only thing all four of them knew was the Minnesota State Bird.
Three out of four thought that the right to bear arms is one of the rights guaranteed by the first amendment.
Now all that stuff is discouraging. It gets worse.
On Saturday, I asked how many stripes were on the American flag. In spite of the fact that there was a flag hanging on the stage and I turned to look at it after I asked the question, neither one of them got it right.
When asked how many Senators there are in the United States Senate, neither one of them could get it right without help. Only one person out of four knew how many Justices there are on the United States Supreme Court.
So what does it all mean? Are these people stupid?
Maybe. I don’t know. The fact that they have no idea who represents them in Washington D.C. doesn’t make them stupid. I would imagine it makes them normal. It isn’t just that they don’t know who they are voting for – they don’t care.
Now I understand voter apathy. For most people, there doesn’t seem to be a difference between the two parties and there is still the idea that voting for a third-party is “throwing your vote away.”
The only way you “throw your vote away” is if you refuse to use it.
As a liberal, I do see differences between the parties and that is why I personally have little difficulty voting for most Democrats and also why I will not vote Republican until they change major planks in their platform. But that’s me.
Lots of folks view both parties as equally evil and therefore disengage.
They are the undecided voters to whom neither party speaks.
Yet that is no excuse for failing to understand the basics of our system of government. If we can all name who Brad Pitt is dating but we can’t name our Representative, we have a problem.
And it is not the fault of the Democratic or Republican parties. It is the fault of the voter. We live in a representative Democracy and that means we need to actually pay attention to who is representing us.
Most people who vote just check the box next to the “R” or the “D” without doing any research. Contrary to what you might think, I don’t automatically vote for the “D.” I simply won’t vote for the “R.” I might vote for someone in a different party if they seem like the right person for the job.
But holy shit, I actually know who the incumbent is. I’m aware of the ballot initiatives. Because I give a shit.
What we all need to realize is that the people I was quizzing this weekend are not stupid. They just don’t give a shit.
That makes me sad.
But I can’t say it makes me surprised.
P.S: Did anyone get the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” joke at the beginning or was that one just for me?