By Gabe Silverman
Pontchatoula, La. — After voting in every presidential election he could, Chester Orgeron III finally had enough. The 48-year-old had lost faith in the federal government, he thought the country was headed in the wrong direction and he did not believe either presidential hopeful was fit for the job.
So on Nov. 6, 2012, Orgeron stayed home.
Orgeron is part of the nonvoting group called the “pessimists” as identified by a Medill School of Journalism survey conducted after last year’s election. It’s the largest of the six nonvoting blocks found in the survey analysis, accounting for 27 percent of the more than 1,100 respondents.
Although most pessimists didn’t care for either candidate, they expressed particular contempt for President Barack Obama and the current swath of Washington leaders who they believe have mishandled the economy.
“I want to see some of these American manufacturers bring they [sic] companies back to America and put American people back to work for wages they deserve,” Orgeron said.
It’s hard to pin Orgeron down politically. He doesn’t identify with a particular party. He has voted both Republican (Ronald Reagan and John McCain) and Democrat (Bill Clinton). He wants the government to play less of a role in people’s lives, yet Medicaid paid for his $800,000 medical tab after an accident left one side of his face and throat paralyzed. The government has sent him a monthly disability check ever since.
What is clear, however, is his mounting disdain for Washington politicians, or as he calls them, “the high and mighty.”
“I think the government wants to do stuff for the people, but the people who is running the government, the high-and-mighties, the ones with them pockets full of money, don’t want to help because it’s not filling their pockets,” Orgeron said.
In general pessimists have low levels of civic engagement. Aside from occasionally volunteering at the church’s food pantry where he was once served, Orgeron tends to keep to himself.
Most of the time he goes about his daily routine of housework, caring for his daughter and surfing eBay for stamps to add to his collection.
That time spent hunting for stamps accounts for most of Orgeron’s digital information consumption. The majority of his news comes from his eldest daughter, whom he called a “political hound.”
“I watch the weather, that’s all I watch,” Orgeron said.
When pressed, Orgeron conceded that he probably should have voted.
“It is the public’s responsibility to vote, because if we don’t vote, you might get someone in there you don’t like, like President Obama.”