I woke up this morning, checked the election results, and felt that familiar feeling of disappointment, but not surprise, at the American electorate. Politically, I lean pretty far to the left. I am an unapologetic liberal, the sort of person that Fox News loves to hate. I love the gays, I think access to good and affordable healthcare should be universal, I believe my uterus and what's in it is MY PROPERTY, I think our foreign policy of starting and dragging out wars in the middle east is despicable, I think rich people should be paying far more taxes, I think pot should be legal (even though I find it disgusting), and I really don't care who or even if our president worships. Call me a pinko commie and I might just take it as a compliment. Just so you know where I stand.
What I find most discouraging about the midterm elections isn't the standard line about how polarized our country has become. (And yes, I realize I made some polarizing statements in the above paragraph.) What bothers me most is just how badly informed - uninformed, misinformed, take your pick - the voting population is. We aren't very well educated in how our government works, or how capitalism works for that matter. And we're all busy people who can't or don't take the time to inform ourselves properly, so we latch onto phrases and concepts that are easy and familiar (lower taxes, family values, spend-o-crat, corporate bailout) and vote based on very little information.
I don't know who's to blame, exactly. I am a product of the Kentucky public schools, and I learned squat about civics. I think the last time we studied government was in 5th grade. So maybe education is at least part of the problem. But there's also the issue of the main media outlets that tend to focus on opinion polls and the scandal-du-jour rather than digging deep into candidates' public records (didn't Molly Ivins say the first three rules of journalism are "1. Look at the record, 2. Look at the record, and 3. Look at the record"?) to clue us in as to how someone will actually behave in office.
We the public also tend to be very short-sighted, both in looking ahead to the future and looking back at recent history. Yes, we're impatient for the economy to improve, but we had more than a decade of Repulican majority in congress, including 8 years of the Bush presidency to royally screw things up, and Obama's had just 2 years with a weak majority in Congress to fix it. It's like handing him a rope tied to the back of a downhill train and blaming him for not being able to stop it without asking who got the train going in the first place.