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A disengaged voter’s lament

by Jeff Sykes

The robo calls have abated ever since I sternly demanded the GOP operative to remove my name from the party’s database. My friend, a registered independent, still receives them regularly. Me, not so much.

The mailers still come with frequency, however. When Republican candidate for United States Senate, Thom Tillis, was locked in a pitched battle to win the party nomination in May, we received a flier that proclaimed “Democrats Fear Thom Tillis!” My son found that one very funny.

“What is Thom Tillis, a monster?” he asked. Saying that we “fear Thom Tillis” was the running joke of the summer in my household. The nineyear old got a kick out of it each time.

I mostly fear the autoplay web ads I’m forced to endure when I want to listen to an earworm on YouTube or watch clips from a game I missed. I’ve become a professional at tuning out the television ads, long ago tiring of the hackneyed appeals to fear or sentimental attachment to values long since passed into the minority of history. For the life of me, I can’t understand why they waste so much money.

It’s been a long journey to my ambivalence about politics. As a teenager I was the most well-read and conversant politically active person around. When I was in 10th grade I debated the school valedictorian in a world issues class. Most observers felt I held my own.

As a younger man I had this naive objection to what I perceived in the Reagan years as the Democratic Party’s dedication to machine politics “” to the group superseding the individual. I guess I listened to the ads in those days.

As I moved into college and began to study history, I gravitated toward the big names, FDR, JFK, LBJ, devouring policy issues and studying the vast debates around the big topics of the day. From the National Recovery Act, to Kennedy’s Latin America policy, to LBJ’s push for a Great Society, I always admired the activist presidents of history, even as I lived under, and voted for, do-nothing Republicans.

Moving into this century, I had grown weary of the post- Atwater Republican machine. But just as I began to look for options came the North Carolina Democratic Party’s era of scandal, led by the triumvirate of Jim Black, John Edwards and Mike Easley. What national Democrats I could identify with, Bill Bradley, Mark Warner, either fell by the wayside or failed to gain national traction.

As I matured politically, I was able to outgrow some of my childish notions about party politics, coming to the all too mature cynicism that viewed the major political parties as two sides of the same coin.

As party and national policy issues have faded from my realm of concern, I chose to identify with the issues of civil liberties, equal rights and sustainability. This puts me in a political vacuum, but also frees me up to look at things with a fresh view.

These days I care more about what a grassroots entrepreneur is doing in their chosen craft, how governments are encouraging localism and sustainability, how the creativity of the individual is making up for the superstructure’s lack of virility.

I’ve heard enough about Thom and Kay and Mark and Laura’s faults. I’ve tired of both sides calling me with dirt about the other guy in local races. Political rhetoric amounts to a whole lot of static noise in my mind.

There are some bright lights in our state’s municipal leadership, as cities once again become the last line of defense for progress in the face of monolithic priorities from the left and right.

Perhaps the energy of the young and the creative, the visionaries of a more earnest politics, will emerge when the political extremes fold back in on themselves once again.

Until then the visual clutter of political yard signs and the broadcast clutter of hollow promises and empty accusations will continue to disap- pear in the political vacuum of my consciousness. !

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