An Informed Electorate

Young man presenting an alternate viewpoint at a Trump political rally in Manchester, NH. Courtesy of the Concord Monitor.

Young man presenting an alternate viewpoint at a Trump political rally in Manchester, NH. Courtesy of the Concord Monitor.

There’s been a lot of Op Ed pieces on the web lately about Donald Trump and how he couldn’t possibly become President because he’s a racist, a buffoon, or various other things. That enough people will surely see that and not vote for him.

Let’s be clear: While some of those accusations may be true and it will surely cost him some votes, none of them will be enough to stop him from getting elected. Here’s why…

One of the best features of democracy, in theory at least, is that all votes are created equal. Barring fraud or some other form of manipulation, if the system works the way it’s supposed to, the voting booth is sacrosanct. A place where the Custodian’s vote counts every bit as much as the CEO’s; the high school graduate’s every bit as much as the college professor’s; and your race, gender, sexual orientation or anything else is irrelevant.

While the all-votes-are-created-equal principle is one of the best things about democracy, it’s also one of the worst, because what it means is that the uninformed vote counts every bit as much as the informed one. So does the misinformed vote, and the kneejerk emotional one that really should have been better thought out. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how the vote was arrived at – all that matters is who received the most numbers.

Politicians who know how to play the system understand this very well. It’s why they make broad, emotionally provocative statements like, “Something is wrong with this country!” or, “Your freedoms are being threatened!” or, “Where is the outrage?” They do it because they know no system is so perfect that there isn’t almost always something that needs improvement. If you can find something that’s wrong, then get enough people to feel threatened or angry about it; it’s a rock solid way to secure votes come Election Day.

It really helps if you can get people to feel threatened or angry. People are much easier to manipulate when they feel threatened or angry, it doesn’t matter how “real” the issue is. You just have to hype it often enough that people accept it as truth, enough to keep them scared or angry so that their fear and anger shapes their thinking when they step into the voting booth.

Politicians who know how to game the system get this – and they’ve been using it far too effectively for altogether too long.

So how do we deal with it? You, me, everyone who’s sick of waking up six months after Election Day feeling like they bought a car that looked awesome on the lot, only to find out it’s a piece of shit – and that the warranty you paid extra for doesn’t even begin to cover half of what’s wrong with it? I don’t pretend to have all the answers to that and I’m certainly not suggesting that there aren’t things in this country that legitimately need fixing. Of course there are, but we’re not going to fix them if we keep letting ourselves be played by whomever can make us the most hysterical or angry.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. It’s your vote, not mine. But whatever you do, please DO vote. And for God’s sake, when you do it, please, PLEASE do it intelligently! Keep your bullshit detectors in full effect. Don’t buy into the hype. Don’t let them play you into being scared or angry. Vote with a cool head, and a carefully, well thought-out decision behind you. There’s too much at stake. For you, for your kids if you have them — for all of us, not to have done so.