What do voters want?

The most trenchant observation of journalistic culture I've seen in a while, from Time Magazine:

The funny thing is, the reporters the blogosphere hates the most (exhibit A: Broder) are the ones who spend the most time talking to voters, while the ones they lionize never come out from behind their keyboards.

The problem is, voters bore journalists. Not because we're elites and they're proles, or we're smart and they're stupid, or however you want to frame it. Voters bore journalists because we are supposed to find out what they think about policy--and they don't, much. We, on the other hand, spend all of our time immersed in this stuff. Talking about politics with your average voter is, for most journalists, like an engineer trying to explain to his mother how a television set works. You love Mom, and there's no reason she should know--but just the same, this is for most engineers a less than fascinating conversation. Now imagine that the dialogue consisted, not of telling Mom how a television works, but nodding sagely while she--the doyenne of the County General obstetric nursing staff--tells you.

I know, with great certainty, that tax cuts do not increase revenue in the near term. But do I wish to discuss the matter with my Republican relatives in western New York? Frankly, I find this prospect only slightly more appealing than being slow-roasted over Al Gore's new eco-friendly water-heater. Uncle Leon is not going to wade through the five hundred pages of prep material he'd need for us to start out on the same page. And the alternative--that my relatives sit with fixed smiles while I, The Great Journalist, Tell Them How It Is--sounds, if anything, even worse.

Unfortunately for us, voters know a lot that we don't. They know, for starters, what it is like to live as something other than a financially fragile, hyper-educated wordsmith. This is valuable information that we're missing because no one wants to spend time with people who don't share their passion for political arcana. Instead, ordinary voters get used as quote farms to spice up the pieces whose general themes were mentally typeset long before the reporter got to the rally.