The other day I was reading an article in the newspaper. (Yes, I’m one of the dwindling number that still do that.) The subject was Republicans in Congress and their continuing fight against the Obama administration’s ruling that religion-affiliated employers must cover women’s contraceptives in the health plans they offer. A CNN poll released last Thursday found that half of all Americans aware of the ruling said they oppose it, while 44% support it.
But here’s what really shocked me. Nearly 40% of those polled said they had not heard about the dispute. Apparently they were too busy watching “Jersey Shore,” and missed any mention of the controversy, which had only been covered by every newspaper, magazine, radio news broadcast, network and cable news outlet, comedy news show, church bulletin, facebook page, gossiping housewife, skywriter, and crazy homeless guy with a bullhorn, almost constantly for the last two weeks. How ignorant and/or out of touch do you have to be to miss a news story that big?
I get really angry when so many people say that “it doesn’t matter who gets elected, because they’re all the same.” Well, guess what, folks—one political party, the Republicans, wants to restrict your access to birth control, and the other, the Democrats, wants you to have easy access to contraceptives and other women’s health care. I’d say that’s a pretty big difference.
If you snooze, you lose. That has never been more true than in today’s politics, with so many Republican candidates fighting to see who can be the most right-wing, and actively working to roll back progressive ideas that most people have taken for granted for years. It is vital that all voters pay attention to what our lawmakers are doing, and make their opinions known so that elected officials who stray way out of the mainstream will fear for their re-election chances. You can’t just leave democracy in the hands of the die-hard believers in the extreme wings of both parties.
The thing that really bothers me is how easy it is for politicians to manipulate their uninformed constituents into supporting measures that are against their own interest. 98% of Catholics use birth control, yet many have bought in to the bogus notion that the government is intent on taking away their religious freedom. Millions of blue-collar workers were hurt by the housing collapse, yet they still support the Republican Party that wants to ease regulations on Wall Street and the big banks. Many people support Tea Party candidates that espouse rigid small government ideas, all while happily cashing their Social Security checks and relying on Medicare for their health care.
You’ve all seen those Jay Leno segments where he interviews random people on the street and asks them questions about common things you would think everyone should know, such as, “Who is the Vice-President?” That question seems to be too hard for most people. However, they do know the names of all the characters on “Two and a Half Men,” what Lady Gaga wore to the Grammys, and what Beyonce named her baby.
So I don’t know what we have to do to get folks to pay attention to important issues that greatly affect their lives. Maybe Jersey Shore could do an episode where “The Situation” gets “Snooki” pregnant because she couldn’t afford her birth control pills…