John R. Smith: Voter Ignorance is Causing Disasters

When I was younger, I believed in the wisdom of America’s average voter. It seemed reasonable that the extremists at both ends of the political spectrum would mostly cancel each other out, that there should be more intelligent voters than ignorant ones, and America’s “great middle class” would make common sense of it all and vote wisely.

The passage of the years, especially the last few years, has changed my earlier beliefs as we witness the ineffectiveness of today’s federal government leaders. Voters must shoulder culpability. How you vote is an extension of what you believe, and uneducated voters are the downfall of modern-day republics. When voters fail to bring knowledge and sound judgment to the voting booth, we all get what we deserve. Garbage in, garbage out.

If the republican form of representative government is going to work, we need an educated electorate. When our nation was created, the Founding Fathers agreed that democracy would only work if the people educated themselves about what criteria to use when electing their leaders. The founders understood that mindless, uneducated voters or an electorate prone to be influenced by emotional, political speeches and “free” giveaways would produce calamity. That’s why the forefathers created a representative republic, not a direct democracy. If a democratic form were indeed the founders’ overriding intent, the people would not need representatives with superior knowledge or skill; they could merely have sent a houseboy to vote their wishes. In their wisdom, the founders believed that direct democracy was dangerous.

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Look at American adults today and dig deeply into their beliefs. Consider the large number of intellectually lazy Americans who vote. About 76 percent of Americans believe alien beings have visited Earth. Twenty-four percent believe dinosaurs and man existed together, and 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Over 40 percent, especially those at young ages, believe astrology is a science, and 25 percent say planets and stars influence their lives.

Eighty million Americans share the belief that UFOs are extra-terrestrial. Many people believe zombies exist; in fact, 45% of people asked what creature they would be most afraid “to meet in a dark alley” said either a zombie, werewolf, or vampire. Over 20% of Americans say they have been visited by a dead relative or friend. Twenty percent of the population believes in witches, and about one-third are open to the claim that Bigfoot exists.

If voters can believe in such nonsense, it’s easy for them to be fooled by whatever a well-spoken, well-groomed politician tells them, without verification or independent evidence, especially if a compliant and fawning media publishes stories promoting favorable views of the politician. These voters lack the critical thinking to conclude that the suit and hair do not make the man (or woman), that glibness and fluency are not integrity, and that the beautiful speech is coming from the Teleprompter.

These are the same voters who fall head-over-heals for politicians’ propaganda that “you did not build that,” preach “there’s a war on women,” “America is systemically racist,” the “evil 1 percent,” and the inalienable “rights of groups.” Too many voters believe having a job is a right, not a privilege. They think it’s OK when unproductive people demand the benefits made possible by the work and money of others as if free stuff were their right. These are the same voters with the absurd state of mind to elect the most inept and arguably most incompetent president in America’s history.

Winston Churchill nailed it: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Or Voltaire: “If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.”

When we dig down to the root of it, too many American voters lack the good judgment and the critical thinking skills to insist on electing leaders who do not always follow the directives of their constituents, politicians who would not become spineless and wobbly-kneed when constituents protest or disrupt public meetings. Government by protest is the road to ruin on par with Caesarism, as the founders recognized.

When the politicians we elect are shown to be irresponsible or cognitively impaired, the ignorant voters who chose unwisely doom us all.


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