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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

It's gist politics

Is this darkly cynical or just brutally honest?

Whereas wonks and columnists might eat up charts and white papers, the electorate has better things to do -- most notably any activity not entailing looking at a chart or reading a white paper. That is why we function under a representative democracy rather than under a 300 million-person bull session. Voters, busy with real life, operate under the assumption that the people they send to Washington own calculators, watched enough "Schoolhouse Rock" to know how a bill becomes a law and, in some broad sense, share their worldview.

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Apparently, there is an impression in Washington that the longer a document is the more it says. Major political parties should also understand that some things are simply assumed by voters. For instance, everyone probably would concede that both parties are profoundly opposed to the trafficking of children. No need to write it down!

Take the Ten Commandments, the gold standard of political platforms. God commands: Thou shalt not commit adultery. He doesn't instruct the Israelites to break out into subcommittees to haggle over the definition of a "neighbor's wife" before the law is carved into stone. They get the gist.

I'm more inclined to the latter. As a journalist, it's my job to demand specifics and details. Gotta do my part to create an informed electorate! But the author is right; most people have real lives and have neither the time nor the patience to do anything but follow the broad strokes. In the end, we go for the candidate we instinctively feel is closest to our world view. We don't really want everything spelled out in agonizing detail. We "get the gist."