About five years ago....the Pew Research Center did a survey, and found that fifty-seven percent of adults in the youth range (18 to 29).....had no real memory of Roe versus Wade (the Supreme Court case on abortion), which dated back to 1973. The general belief was that even though they had a total lack of understanding over the historical event.....they just felt it was "right" to stage a position.
This would be kinda like having a national discussion over making all cars stick-shift, or automatic....but having a majority admit that they'd never driven a stick-shift in their life, but they wanted to participate in this national cause because they felt it was "right".
I sat in a class recently with a fair number of Syrians and Iraqis, and the topic of Elvis came up. In German society, 99-percent of Germans will say they know of Elvis (even though he's been dead for 40 years). With the Syrians and Iraqis? Maybe two out of the dozen had heard of Elvis. The rest? Elvis was a total mystery.
You could go out today and ask a hundred adult Americans how the depression of 1929 started up, and if you were lucky....you might have five people who have a basic grasp of the historical event to give at least a marginal answer. The same would be true if you asked the same group about the 2008 financial crisis, and if they could give a simple three-line explanation as to what happened.
I won't say that people are idiots....it's just that they have a random memory scheme, and if something doesn't seem important.....then it's erased from their memory in a matter of seven days. Go ask a hundred people to describe the basic script to Star Wars I (the original), and the vast majority will rattle off a 10-line description....even though they haven't watched the movie in thirty-plus years. It was important in their mind to remember the Skywalker kid, the lusty princess, the Chewy-guy, and the Obi-dude with mystical powers.
Most people by age thirty will readily admit that they've forgotten more than half of what they learned in high school. I think if you tested fifty-year old college graduates....more than half of their knowledge base....which they paid $90,000 for....has evaporated.
But in the midst of all of this....a political dynamic is at play. The two parties and their 'gate-keepers' are busy trying to hype you up....over something that may not really be significant in your mind.
For example....you get forty people to show up for a pro-Mexican migration rally, against the evil Trump. You might discover if you talked to the forty folks.....that more than half of them have never met a Mexican in their life, except at Starbucks, or Burger King. You might even discover that only three of the forty have some type of friendship with a Mexican, on a first-name basis.
Another example....you get a hundred people to get hyped up over the Supreme Court nominee. So you ask the hundred to name the nine current members of the court....to find that only six can name all nine members. Then you find that forty could name five members. On Roe V. Wade? Well, you might find that five of the folks think Roe V. Wade is a rapper out of Detroit, and Roe is short for something but they can't remember what.
In the end, our fragile democracy is dependent....on a bunch of forgetful folks.....not remembering much, but being all fired-up over something (they just don't know what).