Thoughts on voter apathy, ‘dead air’ and recent deaths

Robert Houk • Jul 9, 2012 at 11:11 AM

There is something editors used to say to reporters new to a beat: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.”

The meaning of this, of course, is never to simply take someone’s word for it. A good reporter is supposed to check the facts before going to press.

This line came to mind recently following a conversation I had with a former elected official. This veteran politician told me he was surprised to learn just how many people say they vote when they don’t. He discovered this sad fact after losing a close election a few years back.

Checking the names of who voted in that election told the story. He was disappointed to learn that people he had thought to be too responsible to shirk their duties as citizens had in fact stayed home on election day.

Of course, many of these same MIA voters were among those who extended their sympathies on his defeat.

“I voted for you,” more than one was heard to say.

The title of a recent book from political pundit P.J. O’Rourke, “Don’t Vote! It just encourages the Bastards,” may sum up how many Americans feel about our political system.

Mediocre candidates, however, might not gain office if voters took more of an interest in something other than who wins “Dancing with the Stars.”

A few more notes from a political pundit’s notebook:

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker observed last week there doesn’t seem to be the same excitement or sense of purpose for the November election that we saw in 2008 and 2010. Corker said there is something about the two candidates for president that have yet to inspire the voters. “There is not a national momentum,” Tennessee’s junior senator told me Tuesday.

Corker, a Republican who is backing Mitt Romney, said that could change by the time the fall election rolls around. But for now, he says there’s a lot of “dead air” filling the political atmosphere.

This presidential election is a very “defining race,” says Corker, who is also seeking re-election this year. He believes it will determine if the United States will continue down the path of the “European model,” or if the country can return to the middle road.

Corker believes Romney can inspire voters and generate some momentum if he repeats the performance he gave to campaign donors at a Republican policy retreat in Park City, Utah, last month.

I was saddened by the recent deaths of John Fetzer and Andy Griffith. The two probably never met, but if they had, I bet they would have had plenty to talk about.

Griffith, who played a beloved elected sheriff on TV, died Tuesday. Fetzer, who served 16 years on the Elizabethton City Council, died June 30.

Like so many others who grew up watching reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show,” I felt as if Griffith was part of my own family. Friends and I would often quote Andy like he was a cousin.

I knew Fetzer as “Mr. Democrat” of Carter County, where he was the long-serving chairman of the party. He once told me that “Democrats should run as Democrats” and never put their name on a local ballot as an independent.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at rhouk@johnsoncitypress.com.

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