Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Maybe It's Not So Bad

On any continuum of interest one cares to name, we each regard those farther on as fanatics, and those farther back as apathetic. The correct amount of interest in anything is the amount of interest our exalted self shows.

Those of us who follow national and international events often cultivate a quiet condescension for those less interested. During election season, when all misstatements or misbehaviors are magnified in meaning, there is frustration among the intensely political that Other People vote with so little thought or real information. They respond too much to image, impression, and chance events, we think. Sometimes this will spill out as a complaint that those other people should not be allowed (or at least not encouraged) to vote at all. Let those of us paying attention make the choice, eh? This is not a good attitude, as I noted before the 2006 elections. If we enforced such a thing, then the fanatics would be electing all our leaders. Well-informed fanatics, perhaps, but True Believers nonetheless.

The general population may be evaluating candidates better than we think. First, a lot of people who say stupid things are not going to be voting anyway. People just like to have something to say about popular subjects, and everyone, voter or no, finds a few rehearsed bromides to spout. That these often correspond to the image that a candidate is trying to project, which we have evidence is not fully accurate, is hardly surprising. It may be irritating. The repetition of such vacuities may have some influence on actual voters. But in general, it’s just noise. Pay no heed.

Secondly, we the intense may be measuring the sensibleness of others’ views in an unfair way. In a fully objective world, all candidates would start at zero and have to earn points to earn our vote. We all pretend that we ourselves do that, but it’s hardly likely. Most of us take the image that the candidate is going for, and then start comparing him or her against it. It is a variation of Goethe’s first question for art: What is the artist trying to do?

I find that most people, even those who don't pay much attention to current events or everything the candidates say, run a couple of tests on someone they are thinking of voting for - perhaps on a particular issue, perhaps on some less-definable quality like "leadership." They do eliminate candidates this way.

If I run fifty tests on each candidate I'm considering and they run three, I will have the impression that there is a great deal they don't know that they should. But spread over a population, it may not be such a bad method. Briefly test-drive a few models that have the styling, or dependability, or the features that you like, pick one and take it home. It sets a general direction for the country (or party, or state) and weeds out some bad 'uns.

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