Nearly half of adult Americans don't vote in elections. That's depressing. Why don't they care who leads their nation, state and local bodies? Why don't they care what policies shape America?
The answer may be: pure ignorance. Perhaps nonvoters simply don't know much about their government or about crucial issues facing leaders, thus they have little interest.
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor addressed a civics conference in Idaho and warned:
-- Two-thirds of Americans cannot name a single Supreme Court justice.
-- One-third can't name the three branches of government.
-- Four-fifths of high school seniors can't explain how citizen participation helps democracy.
"Less than one-third of eighth-graders can identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and it's right there in the name," she lamented. "The more I read and the more I listen, the more apparent it is that our society suffers from an alarming degree of public ignorance."
This problem doesn't affect newspaper readers -- especially those who follow editorial pages. That's where America's key political issues are explored endlessly. But we're unsure how to reach the nonreaders and nonvoters who don't know or care about politics.
High schools and colleges should hammer civics intensely, to make young people realize that democracy controls their lives and wellbeing. And democracy isn't genuine unless most adults do their part.
If you meet some of those uninformed souls, maybe you could tell them that the three branches of government are executive, legislative and judicial -- and the current nine Supreme Court justices are John G. Roberts Jr., Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel Anthony Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.