Arianna Huffington has a new column on the tyrrany of the vacillating, intellectually lazy undecided voter, and it's a hoot:
According to a new poll by the National Annenberg Election Survey, 46 percent of undecided and persuadable voters say they find the [Swift Boat Veterans For Truth's] vile ads 'very or somewhat believable'.
Believable?! But then why are we surprised that the folks who are still on the fence nearly four years into one of the most disastrous and polarizing presidencies in American history find foaming-at-the-mouth accusations that John Kerry might have shot himself because it would look good on his resume 'believable'?
Damn, Arianna, as usual you rock. And it really touches on an issue that has been gnawing at me for some time. To wit, I don't have problems with principled conservatives (or principled liberals/progressives for that matter) as much as I do with the increasingly large number of people who are apathetic about politics except when swayed by the unprincipled use of attack ads. As Bill Clinton mentioned on the Daily Show recently, attack ads are used because they work. And, in my opinion, attack ads work because people do not take the time to become informed in advance.
As long as a sizeable group of people refuse to learn about anything outside their lives, politics will be an ugly affair. So the question becomes, how do you convince the "swing vote" that they have a vested interest in paying attention to news beyond the sound bites on network news and on the front page of newspapers? That sort of attention takes both time and commitment, and while it is inherently patriotic to do so, it takes an educational effort to convince them so.
There's a new mission for progressives: They need to reach beyond their little circles of people who more or less agree with them, and reach out to the masses. Air America Radio is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. For instance, what if TomPaine.com or Alternet found funding to start a nationwide newspaper in the vein of USA Today but with a more progressive slant? Sure, there are plenty of progressive magazines out there, but the key here is to find a relatively inexpensive way of increasing circulation while educating and encouraging people to think in bolder, more optimistic ways, and to invite action rather than passivity.
It won't happen right away, but I hope it happens sooner rather than later. America needs it.