Overestimating Voters

I had a friend say the following to me a couple of days ago regarding the need for anti-Trump protests:

“It’s kind of silly to imply that there is anyone left who is unaware of what Trump stands for.”

First, I’ve researched him extensively and I’m not sure I know what Trump stands for. He may be trying to run the country like a business, he may be a Nazi, he may just want to be President because he’s a narcissist.

But that’s really not my point. My point is that most voters are woefully undereducated about the candidates and the issues.

Exhibit A

In 2012 Senator Bob Corker was running for reelection. His Democratic opponent was Mark E. Clayton. Mr. Clayton is a conservative libertarian with ties to an anti-gay hate group. After he won the primary, the state Democratic Party disavowed him and encouraged voters to vote for others.

Mr. Clayton ended up winning 30.4% of the vote (700,753 votes). In Corker’s 2006 election, 879,976 people voted for his Democratic opponent. Based on this, I feel confident in assuming that about 80% of Democratic voters will vote for anyone with “Democrat” after their name on the ballot in general elections.

Why?

I don’t believe the Republicans are any better than the Democrats in this regard. There are too many people who do things just because that’s the way they have always been done. They eat the same foods their parents did, the go to the same churches their parents did, they support the same sports teams their parents did. There’s a faction of the Republican Party that actively discourages the teaching of critical thinking, because, obviously, critical thinking leads to rebellion.  The Republican Party of Texas 2012 platform states: “Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” (page 20, Republican Party of Texas, 2012, from Texas GOP Declares: “No More Teaching of ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ in Texas Public Schools”).

People think they have more important things to do than political research. Most people find it boring. To do it right takes time, and that’s another thing people aren’t willing to relinquish. So they take the easy way out. I’m guessing, based on Exhibit A above, that for 80% of people who are registered Democrats or Republicans, their research begins and ends with who has their party’s label after their name on the ballot. Beyond that, it’s name recognition. Trump and Clinton have that locked up.

Are things hopeless?

There’s another problem in American politics: Politicians are afraid to admit when they don’t know something. So, can we educate enough voters to make a difference?

I don’t know.

My main message is simple: Stop looking for fights and try working together for the good of everyone. I don’t know if I can get enough people to pay attention, but I’ll try.

Thanks for reading.

 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Overestimating Voters

  1. Pierre

    Why do you say Mark E. Clayton is a libertarian? Libertarians are very pro gay rights.

  2. Most libertarians are pro-gay rights. In Clayton’s case, I was referring to his economic libertarianism, not his support for the civil liberties of others, which, as you know, were quite lacking.

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