Yesterday I had to venture “down the hill” into San Diego to pick up some specialty lumber items (I'm getting ready to build the storage compartment and dog platform in the FJ). The vendor I was visiting, who shall remain unnamed, is notable for two things: (1) the marvelous selection of hardwoods and exotic plywoods, and (2) the glacial pace of their customer service and antiquity of their computers (they should really be in a museum somewhere, not actually in use!). The second of these characteristics assures there will be a collection of customers at the counter, waiting with various degrees of patience. And there are conversations...
I sat on one of the provided benches and read the text on the container of glue I was buying. Next to me, a thirtyish young man was complaining about the negative portrayals (by the media) of the current Washington scandals. This provided me with a fascinating view into the mind of a progressive voter, and with the opportunity to ask some questions. From memory, here's how it went:
“I'm OK with Obama ordering searches of those damned reporters!” said my progressive voter. “If he thinks they leaked that intelligence information, then I want him to go after the leakers!” I asked if he really thought that Obama had personally ordered the phone records searched, and if he really thought that the AP employees were the actual leakers – yes on both counts. I then asked if he would have been OK with G.W. Bush ordering a similar search. “Hell, no! Don't trust him!” was the answer. OK, I said, but how would you codify that into the law? “Easy! Democrat presidents can do it, Republicans can not.” I asked a few questions to see if he was serious about that, and as far as I can tell, he was. If you distill what I heard there, it comes down to fascism – my progressive voter was really proposing a flavor of fascism.
Now to the IRS kerfuffle, wherein progressive-leaning groups applying for tax-exempt status had their applications expedited, and conservative-leaning groups got the run-around, threats, and extended information requests. You can probably predict that my progressive voter thought that was the way things should be. He saw nothing wrong with it at all, and thought the press should be lauding the IRS's efforts. Shades of 1984!
Finally, the Benghazi affair. My progressive voter surprised me a little here. Basically he was completely ignorant of the damning emails and other documents that have been trickling out, or else he's just pretending they don't exist. His belief is that all of the Benghazi flap is a Republican “dirty trick”, and that they've got stooges manufacturing all this testimony about Obama having political motives for not treating the Benghazi attacks as a terrorist attack. He thinks that the four Americans were likely killed “by accident” when they tried to interact with an unruly mob enraged by viewing the YouTube video. As best I could tell, he really, truly believes all that.
By the time we finished with our conversation, we had a small knot of others waiting for service around us. Some of these people had peripherally participated in the conversation. It was clear from the general tone and facial expressions that most were with my progressive voter (there were, thankfully, a few scornful faces of those who were not). From some of the comments, it was clear that in general this was not a well-informed crowd. One fellow, for example, was certain that Benghazi was a city in Iraq; another was convinced that every word we said (on the telephone or not) was being recorded by the CIA and this AP flap was therefore by definition a tempest in a teapot.
Being quite immersed in the news myself, I sometimes forget that most people pay much less attention to these things that I do. They're probably happier for doing so :) What's interesting is how these folks make up their minds about the news items they've heard just a little about. It's clear that the lamestream media has a big influence. It appears that preconceived notions and their personal feelings about the president also have a lot of influence. And for some people, a predisposition to conspiracy theories seems to be a predominant driver. All of these people are quite likely to arrive at a conclusion that simply cannot be supported by those pesky things known as actual facts – and this doesn't actually seem to bother them too much.
It bothers me, though. These people vote.
I got no answers, just worries...