Nothing makes opponents of a political candidate happier than when that candidate doesn’t know something about someone or some place of importance. The first step they take is to google that person or place to find out who and where there are; then they get on social media and berate the candidate for not knowing something they didn’t know. I’m not criticizing. It’s human nature.
However, one must question why we expect the American public to make informed decisions in US elections when they have almost no understanding or factual knowledge about world history, economics or government?
We’re a nation of Google-armed Facebook warriors and Twitter trolls electing leaders on the basis of soundbites. At least, this is true for many.
The number one basis for casting a vote in America is party affiliation. Republicans vote for Republicans and Democrats vote for Democrats and issues, policy and world events fail to enter into the equation.
Republicans read Republican media. Democrats read Democrat media. Independent voters read tea leaves. Then they vote. Of all the popular reasons for voting, party affiliation is the most virtuous; so long as each political party is led by knowledgeable and public-service driven leaders.
When our political parties become lazy, overtly self-interested or devoid of vision, discipline and accountability, then party-affiliation voting becomes more of a vice than a virtue. Still – I believe, at present, voting on the basis of party affiliation is the more intelligent method Americans have for electing their leaders.
The second most common basis for casting a vote is in reaction to the current state of affairs. Is the economy declining? If no, vote for the party in power. If yes, vote for the party out of power. “It’s the economy stupid”. However, I believe there are three factors that drive these reactive voters and obviously the economy is the big one. The second factor is security; are we safe? The third factor is American greatness; is the United States the greatest and most powerful nation in the world?
Reacting to current conditions, blaming or praising the party in power and voting accordingly isn’t completely stupid. At least these voters are predicating their votes on objective information. Whether that information corresponds to a particular party, incumbent or candidate is often dubious.
The third most common basis for voting is self-interest. Which politician or party is going to transfer me the most wealth? This basis is the most damaging.
None of these methods, however, require the voter to know anything at all about current events, government, economics or the historical context within which these events, markets and institutions are developing.
It seems to me that Americans expect an awful lot from politicians they know nothing about and who are operating a government they do not understand.
Americans form an awful lot of opinions with very little information and then vote. Worse yet, passionate voters take passionate positions on complicated issues, armed with arsenals of misinformation.
While I do not have a solution to this predicament, we really do have the government we deserve. We tend to get the kind of politicians who appeal to a democracy ill-equipped to make rational decisions regarding the leadership of their nation.
Our country has been playing with fire for years; and elections have consequences.