When politics becomes a hobby …

But civic duty and self-interest do not capture the ways that middle- and upper-class Americans are engaging in politics. Now it is the Facebooker who argues with friends of friends he does not know; the news consumer who spends hours watching cable; the repeat online petitioner who demands actions like impeaching the president; the news sharer willing to spread misinformation and rumor because it feels good; the data junkie who frantically toggles between horse races in suburban Georgia and horse races in Britain and France and horse races in sports (even literal horse races).

What is really motivating this behavior is hobbyism — the regular use of free time to engage in politics as a leisure activity. Political hobbyism is everywhere.

 … What, exactly, is wrong with political hobbyism? We live in a democracy, after all. Aren’t we supposed to participate? Political hobbyism might not be so bad if it complemented mundane but important forms of participation. The problem is that hobbyism is replacing other forms of participation, like local organizing, supporting party organizations, neighbor-to-neighbor persuasion, even voting in midterm elections — the most recent midterms had the lowest level of voter participation in over 70 years.

 

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