Tuesday is our national election and the reactions most people seem to have are:
1) Our two presidential candidates are the worst and
2) We’ll be so happy when this stupid horrible election is over.
I was thinking about these two sentiments and trying to be sympathetic to my fellow Americans who hold them.
But I feel like we are destined for year after year of the same kind of nasty, ugly, unsatisfying elections because we, the voters, complain like this– but do not create solutions.
We want someone great to run for office, we want some great organization to deliver us a candidate with integrity, we want a politician to take the high road. And yet instead we have been delivered Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump and a lot of nasty campaigning because we’re not doing too much to make it better.
- You know why campaigns are negative and ugly? Because often negative ads work on us. There’s data, for Godsakes.
- You know why candidates lie all the time? Because we don’t fact check. We just cheer on our guy or girl and forget the facts.
- You know why a candidate who knows nothing can get elected? Because voters know even less and don’t care to be informed or watch a news segment that is more than 60 seconds long.
- You know why the media reports on our most important democratic process like it’s an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians? Because we will watch and we don’t demand a press that is more concerned with news and fact than ratings.
We’ve got to stop being so okay with ignorance
In America, people get a free pass all the time on their complete lack of knowledge about foreign policy issues, current events, how laws are made, how the president must work with Congress, what is actually achievable through the law, Constitutional basics, economic basics, what the Supreme court does, what the electoral process is….even when these people still spout off like they know what they’re talking about and say counterfactual things. Why is this?
I think it’s because in America, we’re not supposed to call people on their lack of knowledge. When people don’t know the very basics of how our country works and operates in domestic and international situations we’re taught by our culture that we’re not really supposed to say anything. It’s impolite. We’re supposed to just called them “low education voters” or non-college educated” and not make any further observation and move on.
But that’s inaccurate. Plenty of ignorant people have degrees. And it’s an insult to non-college educated people to say otherwise. Ignorance is not a product of your job or your degree of schooling.
It’s a product of not taking the time to read or consider the source of what you’re reading.
It’s a product of letting your fears of change let you embrace ridiculous irrational ideas because that’s so much easier than changing.
It’s a product of thinking that “common sense” doesn’t require baseline information.
It’s a product of close-mindedness and willful intellectual inertia.
In short, ignorance is a product of thinking the things you already know are always right and all that needs to be known.
Americans need to hold each other accountable for blatant ignorance, and the accompanying confirmation bias and rumor-spreading and smear.
Because it’s freaking killing us.
I admit to my own ignorance. I know there are things about American policy I should know but I don’t. Maybe you do too. We need to do better.
And then there is apathy….
Ive also been guilty of this one.
Many Americans don’t get involved in politics —not because we think we know everything– but because we don’t care to know anything.
Many Americans seem to think apathy is cute. We blow off our responsibilities to be the least bit informed or involved in politics because… that’s what we do.
Why? Because “everybody knows” the deck is stacked and change isn’t possible and all politicians are jerks and blah blah blah.
So we don’t bother. Bothering is for suckers.
Plus,this is America. We have other things to do.
Yet, then when other people – who do get involved – nominate candidates we don’t respect, pursue agendas we don’t agree with, or pass laws that screw us over, we complain that, see: the deck is stacked, change isn’t possible, and all politicians are jerks.
We are apathetic because we are hopeless, but we are hopeless because we apathetic.
Conspiracy theories left and right aside: the deck is not that stacked. Change is possible. Politicians may be jerks, but they can be useful jerks. (And they aren’t all jerks…) The spoils don’t go to pre-determined victors. They go to people who organize, work, fight, learn, and care. If you choose to organize, work, fight, learn and care, you can make a difference.
We are a democracy. That Congress we all hate? Elected by US. Our state officials? Elected by US. Our local political leaders? Elected by US.
Those two unworthy candidates? Guess what…
Bottom line: there are no victims in a democracy, only voters.
And voters, we need to get in gear.
We need to check our preconceptions, check our fears, check our facts, check our knowledge, check our susceptibility to confirmation bias and negativity.
We need to get involved and informed. That’s how things get better.
When asked what by a passerby outside the Constitutional convention what the convened men had created- a monarchy or a republic – Benjamin Franklin allegedly answered “A Republic, if you can keep it.’
We’re not doing a very good job keeping it.
Too many of of us have forgotten hard work is part of the deal.
This is a democracy.
And in the end, maybe that means what we really get is the government we’ve earned.
Thanks for reading,