Zogby Interactive has proof of Cavanaugh's 37th Truth About These Here United States: There's never been a country where every citizen is more certain that every other citizen is an idiot.
The latest no-confidence vote comes from a poll wherein 72 percent of Americans declare that "most of the country is not politically engaged and does not follow the news from Washington closely."
Note that this is the true disdain of the bar-room pundit and the Thanksgiving-table curmudgeon. It's not just that most Americans believe most Americans are ignoramuses, but that they specifically exclude themselves from that unhappy count. Here's how poll respondents self-ranked:
Despite the belief that most Americans do not pay attention to the news, 85% of Americans say they personally follow the news closely. Of those, 62% say that while there are some news stations and papers they like and some they do not, they can usually find a reliable source for news. The remaining 23% who follow the news closely say they have a difficult time finding a news station or newspaper they like and they do not see many reliable sources for news. Twelve percent of respondents say they once followed the news but no longer watch because they have been turned off by the quality of news programming and reporting.
How can such a country live with itself? Readers will say I'm making the following story up to further Reason's anti-Palin agenda, but it's true: On a recent airplane flight, I sat behind two women who were not traveling together but broke the ice by discussing the late Ted Kennedy's memoir, which one was reading. The other lady had never heard of Ted Kennedy, and needed the first to describe who he was. From the exchange it seemed to me that the second woman didn't even know that there had ever been a president named John Kennedy, though I'm hoping I just misheard. The first woman patiently went through the storied careers of the Kennedys, and when she'd finished the other one said, "Well I want to get that Sarah Palin's book. I'm a big fan of hers."
Yet the two of them—separated by about 100 years in age, an apparently great distance in awareness of political matters, and sharply distinct attitudes toward politicians who are said to be among the most polarizing in recent history—got along famously, gabbing amiably through a four-hour journey. It was an encouraging show of our open and gregarious national character— unless you had to listen to it, in which case you were wishing you could crash the plane into a tall building.