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Guest column | James Pettican

Government of sound bites for impatient voters

Is government by sound bites possible? We may be on the verge of finding out. Every election seems to spawn more of them and this year, for TV watchers, at least, there were few alternatives.

Most politicians speak in generalities but this year, they did their best to abbreviate the generalities. Sound bites ranging from "bad for this or bad for that" to "Let's get to work" seem to be saying something when they really aren't.

Taking statements out of context has become the norm in political commercials, especially those of the attack variety. Judging from the increasing number of complaints as Election Day drew near, many folks just wanted to vote and get it over with while others, in a "pox on both their houses" mood, just didn't vote at all.

Having the greatest array yet of kooks masquerading as politicos didn't help the cause of good government either.

Who are these citizens and what do they know or don't know? They seem to be many of our friends and neighbors if surveys are to be believed. Can you name one, just one, U.S. Supreme Court justice? If you can, you're a member of a small minority.

If it were on the same quiz though, you would probably know the name of the newest rapper or the manager of your favorite baseball team. Meanwhile, don't even ask them to find a certain country on a world globe when surveys show they have trouble finding continents.

Our students are already trailing much of the rest of the world in science and math and we will pay a price for that not too far into the future. Our girls, bless 'em, are doing their best and their numbers now exceed males in college. Does that mean a future role reversal in who plays the role of breadwinner? Helped along by our Great Recession, there seem to be more and more Mr. Moms out there these days.

The "Sage of Baltimore," as early 20th century editor and commentator H.L. Mencken was known, seems to be quoted more and more by columnists and commentators these days As I have mentioned before, he said, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Mencken overlooked one of our current sins though. Instant gratification, once the exclusive characteristic of your favorite toddler, has now become what seems to be the attitude of a majority of our electorate. The all-around mess we find ourselves in took eight years to create but when it wasn't cleaned up in less than two years. The voters were not pleased and they voted accordingly. I try not to think about what the future may hold.

Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor.

Government of sound bites for impatient voters 11/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 20, 2010 10:25am]
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