A helpless constituent’s suggested reading list

I’m sitting here in Montgomery, Alabama watching this Washington DC political foolishness, just like millions of other people all over the nation, feeling helpless and stunned. I’ve written to my representative in Congress, but have received no response. I watch the news in the evening, and the situation is not changing.

So what am I doing about it? The only thing I can do: try to understand better by reading . . . a lot. That said, here are my recommendations for web stuff to help folks rationalize what we’re helpless to fix.

First, The Onion‘s “Man Who Understand 8% of Obamacare Vigorously Defends It from Man Who Understands 5%.” to remind that almost none of us walking around in our respective communities, sharing our staunch points of view, understand what’s really going on. If you ever need humbling, just read The Onion; their writers will make you understand that all of us are buffoons in our way.

Next, in a more serious vein, I want to add one of my favorite New Yorker articles:  “The Unpolitical Animal” by Louis Menand, published in August 2004. In it, Menand explains how political scientists have known for decades that almost no Americans understand politics. We actually base our ideas on heuristics, the short cuts that help us make up our minds quickly, so politicians and political parties exploit our reliance on oversimplified explanations and key terms. We’re victims of rhetoric, folks.

Third, bringing Menand’s ideas into the current situation, this Business Week article gives the brief on surveys lately asking respondents whether they prefer “Obamacare” or the Affordable Care Act. When polled on which one they believe is better, a majority of people favor the Affordable Care Act— the problem is that they’re the same thing! 

Finally, in an October 11 interview on Fox News, Sen. John McCain cited a Wall Street Journal poll that had only 24% of Americans with a “favorable opinion” of the Republican Party right now. I saw another national poll last week that had Congress’s overall approval rating at 5%. If you care to search for the Fox News coverage of that interview, it’s worth watching: McCain really socks it to the lady interviewer, who obviously wants him to hold up Republicans as completely blameless.

Let’s just see if we can get through these shenanigans, and maybe the folks in charge will let us rest a minute before they start trying to get us to re-elect them a year from now.

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