By Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
As I was listening intently to Barack Obama’s 2012 "State of the Union" address, I suddenly realized that I was a political junkie. I put aside another essay I was writing at the time, moved from my computer over to my desk, leaned back in my dark brown, high-back, comfortable, leather, office chair, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the entire speech—one hour and five minutes without doing anything else. I even listened as Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana, gave the Republican response—which, I might add, Paul Begala described as a glass of warm milk with a fly in it. (Begala is a CNN commentator and writes for Newsweek.)
This may not come as a surprise to many of my blog readers, but I had never put a label on it—and I seldom discuss politics in the essays on my blog.
There is likely to be a good explanation for my position as a political junkie. My parents were dyed-in-the-wool democrats, but I don’t ever remember having any long conversations about politics around my house. I’m not sure I ever really knew their political affiliation; however, I think it was embedded in my genes!
Once I was finished with college, my wife and I left Indiana University for the University of Massachusetts. I never really knew—because it never directly affected me in any way—that university professors were generally democrats. I would hear some discussion of politics in the halls, and when my wife and I would go to parties, politics was sometimes mentioned; however, there were seldom any full-blown discussions—and no partisan arguments.
For all of this time (through most of my life), I was a reader of daily newspapers and weekly news magazines; thus, I was never far from current events and always up-to-date on the current political situation.
What I think had the most influence on my life with respect to being a political junkie was my wife. Fortunately, she is of the same political persuasion as I am, but there is no doubt she is more committed to being a political junkie than I am. We have daily, regular, discussions about politics. (Often, she begins her day watching "Morning Joe" on MSNBC.)
There are two things that are highly pronounced in my life with respect to being a political junkie: 1) I find reading the editorial pages of The (Toledo) Blade and USA Today the most enjoyable portion of the paper, and on those two pages in each paper, reading the op-ed columnists brings me the most pleasure. 2) I find watching MSNBC (probably the most honest, straightforward, news presentations on television) to be more enjoyable than watching anything else—besides college football (especially when the University of Michigan is playing).
I will choose MSNBC over any other network television shows. Now, when there are specials such as the Emmys, Golden Globes, or Academy Awards, I may leave the comfort of the Reverend Al Sharpton (my least favorite MSNBC commentator), Chris Matthews, Ed, Rachel Maddow, or Lawrence O’Donnell for a night, but I always return.
There is another factor that reinforces and encourages my junkie behavior. My wife’s father is 98 years old (at this writing), and we visit him for one hour every day. Fortunately, again, he is a democrat. And, fortunately as well, he loves to talk politics. We will always spend a portion of our hour together discussing the latest events.
This political season (since the fall of 2011 actually) has been a remarkable one in political history. Trying to keep track of which Republican is ahead, or which one won the latest debate, or which one has dropped out (and why), has been fodder for great discussions.
Currently my father-in-law and I are in a betting mood. We will say (HE started it!), "If you had a million dollars to bet, would you bet that Romney or Gingrich will be the Republican nominee?" And, to be honest, right now, it is hard to tell! We are both betting on Romney for two reasons: 1) He has more money. 2) He has a better organization.
The fact is, the American public doesn’t think much of Newt Gingrich! The op-ed column in today’s The (Toledo) Blade by Eugene Robinson says it all, "America Knows Gingrich But Doesn’t Like Him" (January 25, 2012, p. 7A). This is the kind of material that leads to fun discussions. My father-in-law absolutely hates—detests—Newt Gingrich!
This season is really another factor that reinforces and encourages my junkie behavior. When in the entire history of our country, have we witnessed such divisiveness (the bitterness in Congress in which Republicans in the House and Senate, will not allow Barack Obama to have any win that might contribute, even in a small way, to a victory in the general election, November, 2012)? When in the history of our country have this many potential Republican presidential candidates risen to the top in the polls only to plummet rapidly afterward? When have we witnessed a Republican party that had three different candidates win the first three Republican primaries/caucuses (i.e., Iowa-Santorum, New Hampshire-Romney, and South Carolina-Gingrich)? When have we had a Republican party so unable to agree upon a single candidate (e.g., Mitt Romney—even with his money and organization) for the presidency? —he has seldom been able to rise out of the twenty-percentile arena when it comes to Republican favorability.
On October 30, 2004, The (Toledo) Blade published an op-ed essay I wrote entitled, "Distrust, apathy are some reasons so few vote, but all should." In that essay, I offered readers a number of justifications for not voting. The voting scene has changed since that essay with the passage by the Supreme Court’s decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. What I said in 2004, "Some people resent the fact that voting tends to attract the resource rich. . . " may ring truer for many people. This decision erased the wall that has stood for centuries between corporations and electoral politics. The founders of our nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence, and this decision has freed corporations to contribute whatever sums they wish and remain anonymous to boot. That is enough to make the common person skeptical, if not repulsed!
Now, however, you begin to see why being a "political junkie" especially at this time in American history is an easy choice. All the news factors—especially if you watch the news—encourage it. Being actively involved in the democratic process, as I said in my 2004 essay, "preserves the society that permits and protects our right to vote. A vote [and I would add involvement in politics] suggests that we want to see no erosion of our liberties, no manipulation of our freedoms, and no decay of our current way of life."
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At the ThirdAge website, in the essay, "Are you a political junkie?" you’ll find this written there: "To me, not caring about politics is like not caring about other people...like it or not, deny it or not, the United States is a powerful, powerful government that dramatically impacts not only life here but also greatly influences life everywhere on this planet. Deciding not to really care or think about the government's policies is, in my mind, a little bit selfish. Maybe you think it doesn't affect you or that your opinion doesn't matter, but that just isn't true. You owe it to those that are struggling to understand the issues affecting the country and vote, and I'm baffled that so many people can so willingly hate congress yet few take the time to even learn the names of their congressmen, never mind what they stand for."
At the New York Times website, in a piece entitled, "The Court’s Blow to Democracy" (January 21, 2010), the last paragraph includes this statement, "The real solution [to dealing with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission] lies in getting the court’s ruling overturned. The four dissenters made an eloquent case for why the decision was wrong on the law and dangerous. With one more vote, they could rescue democracy."
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Copyright August, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC