We Need to Pay Attention, But That’s Not All

Senator Bernie Sanders was in Iowa at Drake University a few weeks ago. This paragraph from an account of his visit caught my eye:

At first it was unclear who the bigger enemy of the people were to Sanders — the Kardashians or the Koch brothers.  The Kardashians, or rather our public fascination with them, represents America’s apathy. Sanders was clear that nothing progressive can happen until people start paying attention.  Sanders told his audience that Americans are getting screwed, and that we had better pay attention and get off our asses.

What the Senator said about paying attention brings to mind one of his colleagues, Senator Elizabeth Warren. The journalist Matthew Yglesias wrote this about her under the heading “What Makes Elizabeth Warren So Great”:

At Janet Yellen’s monetary policy hearing, Warren took aim at the Federal Reserve’s General Counsel, Scott Alvarez. Alvarez is one of the people with the highest importance-to-fame ratios in the whole American government. His existence — to say nothing of his work — is incredibly obscure. But Warren used her considerable celebrity and her dorky charisma to shine a light on it.

And she has a unique knack among today’s elected officials for seizing on things that are languishing in obscurity and making them blow up. The greatest trick the special interests ever played was getting the world to stop paying attention. Warren makes people pay attention, and it’s great.

Senator Warren is terrific. We need more politicians who speak truth to power and are heard when they speak. But Senator Sanders makes a key point in an image on his Facebook page:

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We need to both pay attention and get organized.