About a year ago this month, I first heard John Edwards give his "Two Americas" stump speech on CSPAN. I was smitten enough to donate money to his campaign, even though I saw his Democratic primary campaign as probably an eventual loser, because he didn't have the party machine behind him. Edwards was the only candidate at the time that had the cajones to point to the vast economic canyon that seperates the "haves" and the "have nots".
In the afterglow of our most recent buggering by the GOP machine, what strikes me, given all of the GOTV work I've done in the past year, is how many people simply don't give a rat's ass. What's worse is that there is literally no way to engage these people. For every voter I spoke with or registered, there were five who just didn't want to be bothered, and no amount of talking or political prosthelytizing by me was going to change their mind.
I'm beginning to think the lack of engagement comes down to a collective tribal narcicism. People (even many of we 'progressives') have become so focused on themselves and their consumerism as a barometer of self-worth, that nothing else matters. One of the strangest things to come out of 9/11/2001 was the government saying, "get on with your lives. Go back to the malls. Travel. Enjoy life!! (But be very afraid.)" Yet rather than examining the attack, we took it at face value, allowed the government to dictate the terms of our national mourning, and then went about our lives.
It occurs to me that as long as there's a buck three eighty left at the end of the paycheck to buy a six pack of Natural Light, there's a large segment of the American population that simply does not care about anything else. They won't ever care. They don't vote. They won't register to vote, even if I fill out the form for them. And I know of no way to engage them.
Another 9/11 style attack? Nope. We could have fifty 9/11 style attacks in a single day, and a polling majority the week after would still say "I feel safer with Bush" (polling brought to you by your local Chevy Tri-State Dealers).
John Edwards said there were two Americas. He was wrong. There are three. The "haves", the "have-nots", and the "don't give a shits".
It's the "don't give a shits" that drove us off a cliff yesterday. I'm at a huge loss as to how to engage this missing bloc of the electorate, and I don't even know if there's ultimately an answer.