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In Wisconsin Tuesday, voters go to the polls for the seventh time in 14 months. That’s an election every 60 days. With recalls, special elections and whatnot, voters in Wisconsin say they are just sick and tired of politics and elections.
They’re not alone.
In emails, interviews and postings, voters from sea to shining sea tell Capitol Hill Blue they are sick and tired of nonstop campaigning, 24/7 political news and the endless barrage of campaign ads, robocalls an pollsters.
“We haven’t even reached the convention yet and I’m sick and tired of the whole thing,” says Susanna Bennett of Milwaukee. ‘We go in and vote and it doesn’t mean a goddamned thing.”
Allison Watkins of Denver writes in an email that she’s afraid to pick up the phone for fear it will be another pollster or automated phone call promoting or slamming a candidate or cause.
“At this point, I’d welcome a call from a collection agency,” she says.
Which begs the question: If voters are bummed out now, six months before the election, what will they be in November.
“Pissed off,” says Arthur Maxwell of Danbury, North Carolina. “I look at my choices and cringe. I’d just as soon toss the whole lot out and start over.”
Political strategist Gary Cardin says voter fatigue is growing and may reach epidemic proportions this year.
“Voters are tired, they’re frustrated and they’re unhappy with what they see as limited differences between the candidates,” Cardin says. “It is little wonder that populist movement gain momentum in this political environment. Voters have no where else to turn so they look for alternatives even when those alternatives may represent the political fringe.”
Along with voter fatigue, political veterans worry about the rise in anger and outright hate in America.
In 2011, the SPLC found, the number of active hate groups in America topped 1,000 for the first time and the organization found a disturbing increase in the anti-government “Patriot” movement.
Says the center:
Several factors fueled the growth: resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the lagging economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at minorities and the government.
Far-right extremists remain highly energized, even as politicians across the country co-opt many of the radical ideas and issues that are important to them,” said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report. “This success in having their voices heard in the political arena, where they have long occupied the fringe of conservative thought, might eventually take the wind out of their sails, but so far we’re not seeing any sign of that.”
The SPLC documented 1,002 hate groups operating in 2010 – a 7.5 percent increase from the 932 groups active a year earlier and a 66 percent rise since 2000. It is the first time the number of hate groups has topped 1,000 since the SPLC began counting them in the 1980s.
But the most dramatic growth in the radical right came in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. These conspiracy-minded organizations, which see the federal government as their primary enemy, grew by 61 percent over the previous year. Their numbers increased to 824 groups in 2010, from 512 groups a year earlier. Previously, the only higher count of Patriot groups came in 1996, during the movement’s heyday, when the SPLC found 858 groups. Militias, the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement, grew from 127 groups to 330 – a 160 percent increase.
Does this kind of anger and hate translate into reform of the American political system? We doubt it. When anger replaces reason and hate dominates debate, the result is all too often chaotic and dangerous.
There’s no doubt that the political system that runs this country is in deep, serious trouble.
But does voter fatique, anger and hate deal with the problem or simply add to it?
In our opinion, giving up, getting mad or dispensing hate only makes things worse.