Americans Love Community, Hate Politics

To understand the lack of enthusiasm most Americans feel about the midterm elections, it’s important to recognize a vital distinction between government and community.

Community evokes positive feelings for most of us, whereas politics and government are nastier and generate a desire to stay away. We choose to be involved in community while we have despicable campaign ads thrust upon us.


Unfortunately, people caught up in the political process fail to recognize this distinction. Many years ago, a woman in North Carolina lost a city council election by a single vote. Shortly afterward, she wrote an impassioned letter to the editor saying that her loss showed how much difference a single vote could make.

It’s true that a switch of just one vote would have had a big impact on her life. She would have had lots of meetings to attend, press releases to issue and influential people to meet at cocktail parties. But the truth is it would not have had much of an impact on the rest of the city’s residents. After all, she would have been one of only nine votes on the council.

That same perspective helps explain the lack of voter enthusiasm for candidates in the 2014 elections (or any recent elections).

Despite all the promises made by politicians, few voters really expect a meaningful change in their own life based upon whether one politician beats another in a particular election. People are generally happier when their team wins and sadder when it loses, but most then go on with life as they did before the votes were counted. More than anything else, the lack of connection between election results and reality explains the low turnout in American elections.

The experience that most people have in the political arena stands in stark contrast to the experience they have in their community with family, friends and neighbors.

In communities, including the online variety, people see things getting done. Sometimes it’s little things, such as a church’s bringing meals to someone who is sick or grieving. Other times it’s a whole lot bigger. As I’m writing this, an online community on Kickstarter is providing funding for a couple intent on building a real-life hover board (yes, like the one Marty used in “Back to the Future”). Ultimately, they think the hover technology will have a huge impact on many technologies.

Community is more than a place where people get together and solve problems. Most of the time, it’s a pleasant experience. The everyday interactions are pleasant, and there’s almost always somebody who will put a smile on your face. When you come together to build a Habitat house, there’s a pleasant spirit that fills the entire team.

This, then, is the challenge for politicians who want voters to show up at the polls. Americans view political campaigns in a negative light, don’t trust anything the candidates say and don’t see a connection between voting and results. At the same time, community is a pleasant place where things actually get done.

It’s a tough sale for the politicos.

Also see,

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