April 13, 2019
Beginning in Jefferson elementary school in Stillwater, OK and extending all the way through graduate school at Oklahoma State University, I had drilled into me by a succession of well-meaning teachers and instructors that a democracy – even if they insisted on calling it a Republic – depended on an informed electorate for its survival. I harbor to this day a sense of guilt if I don’t read everything I can get my hands on about the issues of the day. To illustrate, I began cutting out articles in newspapers and magazines and reading books on health care, trying to come to grips with why America, which has always prided itself on having produced the best shoppers in the world, can’t seem to find a bargain-rate health care plan that actually produces the healthiest people in the world. The best I can say about that issue is that the debate we were promised has turned into a debacle.
Which brings me to my point: Are we Americans informed enough to save our democracy, because, as things stand now, too many Americans are punting and my long-dead teachers and instructors are probably spinning in their graves. Right now, the Republicans, who seem to have become inured to lies, are gearing up to spread more lies about the positions of Democrats on the entire range of issues that confront America and the Democrats are, in effect, taking a page out of Trump’s campaign book and trying to find a slogan that can be “passed along,” tossing their usual “white papers” on the issues onto the ashcan of history.
Let me quote a “top Democratic pollster,” according to the NYTimes. “What our side has to understand is that to fight Trump it’s a battle for definition…Democrats will issue a 61-page white paper that nobody in their right mind will pass on to their friends. (Trump) uses a one-sentence slogan and his voters feel emboldened to share it, pass it on.”
Let’s dumb it down, folks, so politics doesn’t interfere with our favorite sit-com (like the Presidential debates?) which are likely to be interrupted by negative political advertising everyone professes to detest but are probably too embarrassed to admit they rely upon.
Recently, a trio of political scientists conducted an extensive poll to determine just how polarized we are as nation. (By the way, the intensity of polarization is becoming a measure of just how uninformed you are, or, more rationally, just how committed you are to a particularly partisan course of action.) Yet, “everyone” says we are the most polarized we have been in more than a century. Just how polarized is illustrated by the results of their poll. It appears that most people would prefer that if a child of theirs marries someone who belongs to another political party, the new in-law not talk politics when they‘re together. So much for dinner-table debate about the issues that might result in better understanding and encourage civility and tolerance.
Well, our top Democratic pollster is probably right. If we want to beat Trump in 2020, the implication is that we can’t rely upon informed voters. So we have to find a way to spread a simple message that resonates. It will be a challenge because we Democrats aren’t very good at that.
On second thought, I have a suggestion. Our slogan could come right out of Trump’s mouth: “It’s Complicated!”
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