According to several recent studies, emergency room visits are surging for injuries stemming from what has been described as “distracted walking.” Incidents of pedestrians with their eyes glued to the screens of their “smart phones” or tablets, tripping over curbs or walking off train platforms are becoming almost commonplace.
The effects of a society overloaded with information, apps and various forms of electronic communication are manifest in more than just bumps and bruises. Our minds also are reeling from the flood of rapid-fire data and media consumption. People are finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on tasks requiring intellectual focus and attention to detail. Attention spans are fast decreasing as electronic devices push individuals to jump quickly and automatically from stimulus to stimulus and from topic to topic. Even goldfish are now said to have a longer attention span than humans.
To psychologists, the deteriorating condition of human cognition presents an alarming omen. By contrast, to many 21st-Century politicians, it is a Godsend; making the job of controlling voters with shiny verbal or electronic baubles far easier than in decades past.
While this phenomenon of what might be termed “distracted voting” or “D.V.,” may not result in immediate physical injury to the practitioner, in the long-run, and in the body politic, it is in many respects far more devastating to society. Distracted voting may not send voters to the hospital emergency room, but it puts them clearly and directly in harm’s way from advocates of enhanced government power.
Of the candidates running for president this year, none more than Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump have benefited from D.V.
The entirety of Sanders’ campaign have been promises of “free everything” that will require an astronomical increase in taxes to cover a price tag in the multiple trillions of dollars; on top of the ruinous consequences to businesses, healthcare and education. Yet, all his supporters appear to hear or care about, are the simple promises of “free healthcare,” “free college,” and Uncle Bernie’s plans to “tax the rich” to get them to pay their “fair share.” Few, if any of his largely young supporters bother to check further into how these fantasies will actually play out, or what it ultimately will cost them.
On the Republican side of the political divide, and much like Bernie, Donald Trump has proposed similar fantastical ideas for how to “make America great again,” such as building a gigantic wall along every inch of the border, banning Muslims from entering the country, or using executively-imposed tariffs and other regulatory executive action to punish companies with plants in other countries. By any objective standard, Trump’s proposals should have him laughed out of the GOP as an anti-Constitution, crony capitalist authoritarian.
However, voters distracted by Trump’s simplistic solutions and entertaining bullying of anyone who dares challenge him, fail to see the full picture of what they are supporting; namely, the same form of unconstitutional, executive action in which the current President has engaged. But, as long as Trump is perceived as “telling it like it is,” distracted voters blindly support whatever it is he’s yelling at the moment.
Then there’s Hillary. Using lessons from her former boss Barack Obama, candidate Hillary Clinton has taken “distracted voting” a step further; using it to not only mask the shortcomings of her proposals and accomplishments, but to skirt any responsibility for the corruption that has been the hallmark of her entire public career.
Just as Obama has masked his pitifully short record of substantive achievement over the seven years of his presidency by distracting the electorate with endless bloviating and casting blame on others, so has Hillary employed similar tactics to camouflage the corruption that infects every step of her political career. Voters are distracted from that reality to the fairy tale narrative of a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that has unfairly dogged Hillary and Bill since their days in Little Rock. The story of poor, persecuted Hillary is a familiar bell to the ears of her supporters, who rush like Pavlov’s dogs to her side whenever its ring distracts them.
The phenomenon of Distracted Voting is more than just a poor reflection of our weakened ability to properly vet those asking for our votes. It represents a serious, and worsening diminishing of our ability to use logic and reason to objectively weigh the so-called “facts” presented to our senses. Furthermore, D.V. exposes a vulnerability to political manipulation that has already shown it can, virtually overnight, take a pro-Constitution Tea Partier, and turn him into a Trump supporter.
If we truly want to wrest our nation from the clutches of siren politicians like Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, we first must reclaim our minds and stop being distracted with whatever shiny objects politicians dangle in front of our eyes – or our smart phone.