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March 25--A political consultant once told me that the most common mistake of first-time candidates is overestimating their name recognition.
Even folks who have dedicated themselves to their communities and spent time in the public eye will eventually encounter a reality of ample unconcern.
Those people willing to be consumed by politics can sure get that done. Others might be excused for letting their attention wander to other matters of existence.
Polls show that many Americans have a measured relationship with the nation's political climate.
The Pew Research Center released a survey during the last presidential campaign that indicated only seven out of 10 identified Republicans as members of the more conservative party. The numbers came back about 50-50 on which political party had a philosophical stake in reducing the size of the federal government.
A more recent poll by the same organization shows that half of Americans, ages 18 to 33, care to affiliate themselves with either major political party.
Part of the disconnect that people feel with Washington and Jefferson City stems from the philosophical shifting that has gone on and the way a broader spectrum of media outlets represents these changes.
Given the context of past presumptions about where parties stand, the confusion seems understandable.
We have a president who cribbed a health care plan from a Republican governor and a conservative think tank.
He could have advocated a single-payer system, which would put the federal government squarely in the middle of every health care transaction in the future, but he surrendered on that possibility without so much as being nudged.
Instead, he gave a huge, sloppy, wet kiss to the insurance industry, an act of private sector love that belies the man's supposed allegiance to socialism.
Besides that, the president turned into a dependable killer of terrorists and, despite campaign promises to the contrary, kept in place a detention facility for nondead terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Then consider that Missouri has a U.S. senator who favors the construction of an oil pipeline loathed by the environmental community, relentlessly supports the state's military presence and, in contrast to numerous lawmakers who only talk about the horrors of "waste, fraud and abuse," actually holds contractors' feet to the fire after making the federal treasury their corporate expense account.
Finally, consider a Missouri governor who talks consistently about cutting taxes and courting business and whose administration goes to great lengths to carry out the death penalty.
And all of these officeholders are Democrats, representing positions more closely associated with the Republican Party.
Barack Obama, Claire McCaskill and Jay Nixon regularly get painted in the hues of liberalism. Make your own judgment on their bleeding hearts.
No wonder people get confused. The political cues have been scrambled.
It's nonsense to think the work done in capital cities has somehow gotten more politicized. Governmental endeavors always have been political, the means and the end forever linked.
But narrative drives these things, and narrative operates best on the edges, outside the gray areas and contradictions.
If the narrative has to slow down and examine the record, has to focus on actions instead of pigeonholing, things go off the rails.
Given the attention to storytelling, you'd think more people would get interested in politics. Maybe a better story would help.
Ken Newton's column runs on Tuesdays and
Sundays. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.
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