The Serious Public

Joe Klein:

It has been striking to me this year that the public seems far more serious about this election–far less tolerant of diversions–than some of my colleagues in the media.

I think this is always the case. Or, to rephrase in a less treacly “up with people” manner, ordinary people ordinarily just don’t pay attention to politics at all. They don’t think it’s interesting. But insofar as they do take an interest in politics, they do so when and if they’re interested in how politicians’ policies are likely to impact their lives. The political press, by contrast, finds electoral contests to be a kind of fascinating game about which it’s amusing to do tons of stories regarding the ins-and-outs of tactical gambits all the while chasing various shiny objects. Looking at policy they find tedious. But most people don’t care about the “game” at all, if they decide to care about politics it’s because they care about what’s going to happen. If they want to watch a game, they watch football or Project Runway or Survivor. It’s only a tiny minority that thinks of politics as compelling, but trivial, entertainment. Those people just happen to dominate the ranks of campaign reporting.