I find it difficult and exhausting to participate in the American political process, and a big part of me would rather not do it at all.
I prefer to watch baseball and play chess. I like a good movie, and sometimes even a bad one. I am passionate about my job as a teacher and a coach, and don't get me started on the number of books on the list to read. Gardening, exercise, hiking, traveling, woodworking, and more are all positively frabjous ways to spend the time we're given on this Earth in my view.
No matter. I never seem to have much time to spare for any of the above. Twenty four hours in the day is simply not enough. As I teach my Econ students every year, time is scarce, time is limited. Because it is limited, it has value, and we must decide how to apportion the time we have.
I choose to spend some of my precious and literally irreplaceable time on the likes of Hillary Clinton and Bill O'Reilly. Why?
On its own, politics doesn't do much for me. I enjoy the critical thinking of it, and in very rare instances even the challenge of the debate itself. I appreciate learning about the world outside, and the course of human events, as new history is made, and new chapters are added to the textbooks that I teach.
But mostly, politics is pretty low on the list when it's slotted in with other pastimes. It's too repetitive. Generally when we read a headline, we can fill in much of the story to come without actually continuing. Take a recent Drudge Report, overwhelmingly populated with stories we've already read with a new date on the top.
"World's oldest person, 116, eats diet of bacon and eggs." (Someone ancient has a mildly surprising habit, which may or may not conflict with other stories on the habits of other supercentenarians.) "Illegal kills in San Fran; deported 5 times." (Another shocking and heinous crime was committed by someone who happens to be here illegally.) "Texas wary as 'troop training' nears." (Some conservative states are surprisingly not fond of the federal government.)
And yet... we have no choice. We must follow the national conversation, at least enough to be able to speak on it occasionally, and vote come election time. In an ideal America, we wouldn't need to pay attention because the job of government would be done perfectly by the government. But of course it isn't.
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary," Madison famously wrote in Federalist #51. "If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." In Madison's hypothetical seraphim-guided America, I'd get to watch a lot of A's baseball rather than to waste time being a "control" on our leaders.
But one reason I am a Republican is that I don't believe the government is very good at what it purports to be good at, making the autopilot option unthinkable.
Let's imagine a second best, less-than-ideal but still great America. We aren't ruled by angels, but I still don't get involved and happily leave the work to others, content that the vast majority of the electorate is well-informed, rational, and agrees with me pretty much always. (But I repeat myself.) They'll do the job of ensuring good government. Get out the chess board.
Acting as a mediocre substitute for the divine is where our job comes in, and yet many millions of us not only ignore Madison's dictum, we ask, "Who's Madison?"
I'll save myself the time of researching the most damning poll result to prove the ignorance of too many Americans when it comes to following the news. I think we can stipulate that on average we need more awareness of reality and less awareness of reality television.
Enter Clinton and O'Reilly. Ignoring current events is unthinkable.
It also creates a bit of a conundrum when you have children. Children, especially when they are very little as mine are, take a great deal of time and effort. Being a parent is actually more important than anything else in my starting list of favored activities, and more important than politics too.
At the same time, with the direction our country is headed in, I consider it a matter of great import to them I make whatever contribution I can to improving the world, even in my own small way. If you're 75 and childless, the long game may not feel very pressing. If you're 30 with a 3 month old and a 21 month old, there's plenty of time for the entitlement crisis, debt crisis, infrastructure crisis, and the Chinese/Russian/Iranian/North Korean/ISIS crisis to affect you and those you love.
Being a parent is a double whammy in how you plan your day: not only are you obligated to raise those you've begotten, you must leave them a world better than you found it. And that really chews up the time I have for tending the tomatoes.
I may have only so many days in my life to spend as I see fit. But I firmly believe that keeping the Republic alive and well, in all its greatness and opportunity and freedom, is very much worth the investment. I hope you do too.
R. Olson is the director of communications for the Yolo GOP. Increase your investment just slightly by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.