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Good government doesn't just happen
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Published: 2/6/2010 10:56 PM

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The truth is, Scott Lee Cohen won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor because almost nobody paid attention to the race.

Frankly, not too many people paid attention to the Republican primary for lieutenant governor either. In that case, Jason Plummer - only slightly better known than Cohen - won over more credentialed rivals.

In Cohen's case, he won because of a television ad, favorable ballot position and widespread apathy. In Plummer's case, he won because of downstate chauvinism, favorable ballot position and widespread apathy.

In each case, a large field of candidates increased the longshot chances for victory by two candidates almost no one took seriously. Six candidates ran in the Democratic primary. Six ran in the Republican primary. Few people could list them, much less distinguish between them.

Quick! A show of hands, please, of anyone who can name any of the candidates other than Cohen and Plummer.

Bonus round! A show of hands of anyone who, prior to reading this editorial, could name Plummer, even after he's won.

Widespread apathy and disinterest were the unfortunate winners Tuesday, and to say that is not necessarily a knock on Cohen or Plummer. Either could have been anywhere from history's worst candidate for office to history's greatest. That's not the point. The point is, they were elected without many people having any idea where they fell on that scale. They were elected, mainly, because nobody cared.

That is the hard truth.

And it is an indictment of everyone - of the electorate, the news media, the political parties, even most of the candidates running for governor (only Andy McKenna, who endorsed a running mate for himself, gets dispensation here).

None of us cared enough to go beyond the most cursory exploration to find out who these candidates were.

There are a lot of excuses. Too busy. The holidays. The short election window. Distracted by more important races. Not enough time. Not enough staff. They're all crooks. They couldn't possibly win. My vote doesn't matter. It's somebody else's job. It's somebody else's fault.

Excuses. They're all excuses.

The truth is, almost none of us cared enough. None of us care enough even though we are electing someone who will be one heartbeat away from becoming governor.

Shame on us. Shame on the electorate. Shame on the news media. Shame on the politicians.

On Friday, we called for the office of lieutenant governor to be abolished as an unnecessary waste. But whether that does or doesn't happen will not solve the greater challenge.

That challenge is this: In a democracy, we get the government we deserve.