Jennifer Wagner Chartier: Tired of politics? Hopefully, the future is brighter

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Jennifer WagnerLast May, Pew Research Center gathered focus groups across different age ranges and political affiliations to learn more about their views on politics.

All the participants self-identified as “adults who do not closely follow politics and do not strongly identify with either of the two parties.”

It’s not that they don’t vote. Many of them do. They’ve just soured on politics and tuned it out. Pew released excerpts from the focus group conversations in early January.

“It can really affect your mental health,” said a Republican male in his 40s. “You start getting into heated conversation going back and forth with somebody over something you really can’t control. There’s just no point in that.”

From a Democratic-leaning woman in her 60s: “So when I was younger, you got to hear more about what the politicians stood for, and now all you get to hear from one side is how horrible the other one is. But then you don’t actually know where they stand because they’ve spent more time bashing each other.”

As I read quote after quote, I realized I might be starting to feel this way, too, and not just because of the already-exhausting Trump-Biden rematch coming our way in a few months.

By the end of last year’s very expensive mayoral campaign, I would gladly have voted for Shelby Shreve, Republican candidate Jefferson Shreve’s golden retriever. Shelby, by all accounts a good boy, appeared in numerous campaign ads intended to show how much his paw-rents love dogs and to paint incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett as a poor champion for furry friends.

Shelby made those commercials watchable, but the onslaught of negativity from both sides made turning on the television in the waning weeks of that campaign almost unbearable. As a bipartisan household, the same held true for checking our mailbox each day.

To be clear, I’m not checked out of politics. I work in and around politics. But hearing what others had to say in those focus groups made me wonder what trajectory we’re on.

As a nation already divided along red and blue lines, are we also destined to become a nation where only the loudest and angriest folks engage in politics, while everyone else gets quieter and quieter because it’s just too much to break through the noise?

How do we explain to the next generation of voters that it wasn’t always like this and it doesn’t have to be this way?

As I was deep in these thoughts, an email popped into my inbox with this subject line: “Building Momentum: Indiana Future Caucus.”

The email announced the Democratic and Republican chairs of the caucus and informed me that the General Assembly includes 36 Gen Z and millennial lawmakers. That’s a lot more than I’d have guessed. The caucus’s stated goal: “building momentum and preparing for a collaborative session of effective governing.”

In that moment, my cynicism subsided. Maybe it’s just an email. Maybe these legislators won’t actually collaborate on anything. But they’re trying. That’s all I needed to jolt me out of my malaise. And if you find yourself feeling disengaged, maybe this little glimmer of hope will help you, too.•

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Chartier is a lifelong Indianapolis resident and owner of Mass Ave Public Relations. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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