Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not fatigue, just apathy

George Korda wrote a piece recently in the Knoxville News-Sentinel based on the reaction of callers to Knox County Commission Chairman Scott Moore's recent appearance on his show. Moore had agreed to appear on the program and Korda fully expected callers to grill Moore, one of the principle actors in the Sunshine Law violations of January 31. Korda pointed out that few of the callers had anything bad to say about Moore, and most seemed concerned with relatively routine matters of county business.

Liberal blogger Randy Neal of KnoxViews wondered if Knox Countians just have scandal fatigue. There may be something to that hypothesis, but I suspect that what is at work is something far simpler: People just don't care about local government. This is not some peculiar East Tennessee phenomenon, because studies of raw numbers from all over the country show that voter turnout in local elections is abysmal. For all of the discussion about how bad the situation is in Knox County, how many Knox Countians actually know who their Commissioners are? How many Americans know or care about who their local officials are (since I know you will ask, my three Jefferson County Commissioners are Randy Baxley, Tommy Musick, and Nina Snodgrass)? It took a scandal in the County Commission to get the people to pay the slightest bit of attention to their county government in Knox County-one that was caused as much by legal confusion as it was by official misconduct. If there were no controversy, people would pay no relative attention at all to local government-the government that most impacts their daily life in the here and now.

I wish that it were not the case that people didn't care about county government, but I fear that regardless of what happens in next year's elections, people will forget the lessons learned soon enough. When 2010 rolls around, many of the people who did vote in this year's special election in Knox County will not be voting-they assume that since no President of the United States is elected, they do not need to vote. It is a sad but true commentary on the apathy of the American voter.

(Hat Tip: Knoxville Talks)

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At Thursday, December 20, 2007 6:01:00 PM, Blogger SteveMule said...

I think you're on to something. I know guys at work that are furious at Knox County Commission (and others in county government) but I have really come to doubt that they will actually vote - "what difference will it make? This crook or that crook?"


At Friday, December 21, 2007 4:42:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

The reason is because these people have no normal interest in local government the way that you or I might, it takes something unusual or titillating like January 31 to get them talking.

They don't know the issues at hand.

They don't know their commissioners' views on those issues.

They don't bother to ask.

They don't know who their commissioners are, nor do they care to discover this information.

But they'll sure complain a lot.

We all wish it weren't that way, but you can't force civic-mindedness on people.


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