William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
Fairleigh Dickinson University informed us this week that 29 percent of American voters surveyed in a recent poll believe armed revolution may be necessary in this country in the next few years to preserve our freedoms.
Notwithstanding the fact that you can get 29 percent of Americans to say yes to just about anything in a poll, it's a jarring number. That a university polling institute thought it relevant to ask the question may be the more disquieting news.
But I guess it makes some sense. All this infighting over gun regulation has kicked up the age-old fantasy of the disenfranchised American: If things get really bad, the reasoning goes, we'll slap on the coonskin caps and take over the government. Some of the forefathers talked about that, so it's practically our duty. Right?
Whatever you say, Jack. Pass the bourbon.
Here's the problem with the coming revolution, though. When does one ignite it?
Monday's no good. That's "Dancing With the Stars" night. Wednesday's "Chicago Fire"; Thursday is "Two and a Half Men." Friday, Saturday and Sunday are goof-off days, so that leaves Tuesday. But what self-respecting revolution would launch on a Tuesday?
This is what the Russian Academic Igor Panarin failed to understand when, in 2008, he confidently predicted U.S. civil war in 2010. He actually got Russians to take him seriously, and speculation of the coming American conflagration was soberly discussed on that country's nightly news for a time -- while we were all watching "American Idol."
We already have a peaceful means of overthrowing our government, of course: voting. But only about 40 percent of eligible voters in America even bother to cast ballots in presidential elections. And almost a third of us think the day is coming where we should take to the streets with BB guns and Molotov cocktails?
Americans rank 120th in voter turnout among the 169 countries that keep track of such things, smack between the Dominican Republic and a place called Benin (the one to the right of Togo.) Most of us don't even know who our local elected officials are.
New Yorkers are among the worst. In the 2009 New York City mayoral election, fewer than one in five showed up at the polls.
Maybe we're not voting because we're all so fat. That trip from the parking lot to the ballot box has to average at least 50 yards. Sixty-nine percent of Americans are either overweight or obese today, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the numbers grow worse every year.
It's a problem. We're going to have to get into fighting shape if we're to seize control of the government by force. Even Castro had to drop a few pounds, I'm sure, before heading into the Sierra Maestras.
We've heard the excuses about why Americans don't vote or get involved in the political process: There's no one good to support; "they're all the same"; democracy is broken; yada yada yada.
Maybe that's all true. But if democracy is broken, what form of government do these revolutionary schemers envision in its place?
I had a friend years ago who talked politics 18 hours a day -- most opinionated guy I ever met. He'll be 50 this year and he's never cast a vote in his life.
Maybe he's too busy planning the revolution.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.