The Washington Post

When will Americans take politics seriously?

Okay, it’s time for a little scolding, one of the occupational hazards of being a daily blogger. I forewarn you that this post will be insufferable to some; it is yet another rant against how trivial and irrelevant our campaigns have become.

In thinking and writing about the next election, I find so often that it seems to play out with little regard for what is at stake. Our country is in the midst of an economic decline that is re-setting incomes and expectations for the future. We face a demographic change that is overwhelming our financial sovereignity and a global climate crisis that isn’t in the future but upon us now. All these challenges, too, are taking place in a global financial and political marketplace where the United States is still dominant but no longer in control.

And there is almost no real discussion of any of it. Perhaps this is another legacy of American exceptionalism: We have been so strong for so long that we haven’t had to take politics, elections or their consequences all that seriously.

Part of the reason is that voters are more interested in personality and character than issues and answers. And most have finely attuned internal ideological Geiger counters, avoiding those who don’t share their fundamental political world views of, say, “liberal” or “conservative.”

Some of this voter psychology makes good sense. Issues may change, but character rarely does; personality matters because you want to like, or not tire too quickly, of the face trying to lead your country in a media-saturated age, and ideology is deeply personal, tribal, really.

But by focusing exclusively on these important, though softer, criteria, voters allow candidates to escape without having to build a pre-election consensus for their agenda. It seems abundantly clear our country no longer has the liberty of a fuzzy approach to our future.

Warning: more on this in the future.

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