Can We Educate Low-Info Voters?



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Senator Bernie Sanders would make an excellent kindergarten teacher.

He has the patience and presence of mind necessary to deal with agitated individuals who demand answers, but never quite ask the right questions. To use role-playing gamer terminology, Bernie’s perseverance attributes would be rated sky high on 4d6.

I was reminded again of Bernie Sanders’ love of sharing knowledge in his recent televised town halls. At the first town hall on MSNBC, Bernie sat on stage with several voters who had voted for Trump. When asked by fellow audience members why they voted Trump, these voters overwhelmingly insisted that they did not vote him because they harbored racist sentiments or wanted to deport their fellow Americans. Oh, no, no.  They would never want to hurt their neighbors because of their race or religion. They insisted Trump “didn’t really mean what he said,”  or “He likes to exaggerate for effect,” when he made remarks about deporting all Muslims.

“So, you’re saying Mr. Trump was lying when he made those remarks about deporting Muslims and others?” Bernie queried the voters beside him. “Yes, he was lying when he said those things,” replied the Trump voters. Bernie probed further, “If Mr. Trump lied about how he really feels about deporting people, then what makes you believe he’s telling the truth about not cutting your Social Security when you retire or keeping jobs in America instead of allowing factories to send them to China or Mexico?”

The Trump voters’ reply was a mass dropping of jaws. “Oh… yeah.” Their shocked and dumbfounded looks were indeed painful.

Supposedly intelligent adults (at least, adults capable of holding a job) couldn’t add one and one together and come up with two. They had blocked out all other information or intuition they had about Trump’s agenda and voted for him on the basis of one issue only. In this case, it was their desire for manufacturers to keep jobs in Wisconsin, instead of sending these jobs overseas where workers are paid much less and health and safety regulations are often non-existent.

Their need to focus on not losing their jobs kept these voters from educating themselves on the issues and learning about other candidates whose values might have been more aligned with their own. One could even say their uninformed votes came at the expense of others’ rights not to be discriminated against because of their race or religion. These Trump voters might feel sorry about their actions after the fact, but the damage has been done.

The second televised town hall appearance Bernie Sanders participated in was on CNN. Once again, Bernie showed his trademark patience when answering questions. Most of the questions were thoughtful and their speakers polite and curious to hear what Bernie had to say–well, all except one.  This man bluntly accused Bernie, President Obama, and anyone else he obviously didn’t vote for in previous elections, of destroying his small business on purpose through “government regulations” that needed to be voided forthwith.

“Are some of these regulations you don’t care for local, city or state regulations?” Bernie asked, as he has explained repeatedly this is where voters can make the most difference by working to change onerous regulations for small business owners. This individual wouldn’t (or couldn’t?) answer, but continued to fuss and fume at the government at large. He reminded me of a kindergartner stomping his feet when told he’s lost his playground privileges for pushing classmates in line.

This individual’s mind seemed to be made up in advance. He didn’t want to hear Bernie’s useful information on how voters could take positive actions to alleviate the source of his frustration. This “low-info voter” apparently wants to remain in the dark as to his options. He wants to continue throwing temper tantrums, blaming others he perceives as enemies simply because of their political affiliation, railing against the entirety of government because he fails to learn the facts about what part he can play in rectifying his problems.

Can these low-info voters be educated? Can they acknowledge the deep-seated prejudices that prevent them from learning more about how the system works (or doesn’t) and what they can do for themselves to make things better? There are so many Americans choosing to live in fear and ignorance when this information is available 24/7 on the internet. So much intellectual potential is wasted, because our society has glorified stupidity and intolerance in recent years. It’s easier for some voters to believe deporting others will save their jobs than it is to learn it’s their very own company’s CEO who decided to send their manufacturing jobs overseas.

In their defense, low-info voters do have their work cut out for them. The six corporations that own and operate the mainstream media networks have made it their job to keep voters in the dark through corporate propaganda. However, there are other ways to become self-educated about current events, as the alternative press and broadcast media (via You Tube, podcasting, and other online sites) still exist. It’s the motivation factor that is worrisome. For some low-info individuals, remaining angry and ignorant is much easier than becoming part of the solution.


Bio: Cindy A. Matthews is a freelance writer, novelist and editor of Our Revolution Continues blog: