Sunday, November 21, 2004

John Pushes Back...And So Do I

John, first off, thanks for your reply. Second off, you still don't get the point.

In a perfect world, every voter would carefully consider each relevant issue and judiciously assign a particular worth to that issue. Then, the voter would research the candidates' positions and compare those against his/her own fact-based, well-founded opinions. Rating the candidates (quantitatively or qualitatively) on each of these issues and adjusting for the weights already assigned to each, the voter would now add whatever X factor in personality or character that he/she sees fit. Now, with a well-thought, cogent analysis, the voter feels he/she is ready for the booth.

Guess what? It ain't gonna happen. Two voting pathologies demonstrate why you cannot place all of the blame on voters.

Many voters do not have the time to vote responsibly, John. People are worried about replacing that job that Bush lost them. They are concerned about their kid's flu or their wife's cancer. Myriad personal issues take priority over any election, even one that many of us perceive as historic and critical. Can you blame them? Even if you can, their crime is being misinformed. Complicit in that crime is a slew of partisan media talking heads and masterful campaign spin doctors who are all too happy to prey on the voters' lack of time. These people, seeking to manipulate voters, are at fault, because they have a responsibility to the process that they are abusing to achieve their own ends.

Your problem, John, is that you go beyond vilifying this set of voters for its lack of knowledge...You proceed to blame it for Iraq and deficits and stem cell research, etc., etc., etc. Those aren't the crimes they committed.

Many voters are one-issue voters. In my ideal scheme above, these voters essentially place an infinite value on one issue, making it unnecessary to be informed about the others. Is this wise? Absolutely not. However, it is a candidate's job to convince the people that his/her agenda is not only right, but important. The burden lies on campaigns to communicate the value of various issues. If they cannot, then the one-issue voters will continue to vote simplistically.

Again, you are too eager to blame these voters for things they neither committed nor endorsed. I agree that it is irresponsible of these people to make decisions so singularly. However, in their minds, they are proceeding correctly. This is moot, though. As with the time-tight voters, one-issue voters' presumed mistake has nothing to do with Iraq or deficits or stem cell research or No Child Left Behind. These individuals assented along one line to one issue and that's it. They did not place their rubberstamps on the rest of these positions.

This is why what you and others are doing, John, is particularly dangerous. There are millions upon millions of Bush voters who probably disagree with him on several issues that many of us consider important. By categorically shoving them into this anti-progress, pro-war, back-to-the-1870s evangelical nut job box, you force them either to completely agree with Bush's opinions or to judge their decision as unethical and mistaken. Since, as I said, people do not want to be mistaken, when pushed into a corner, they will become more extreme.

By housing the diffident and the wayward with the rabid and the radical, you make more Pat Robertsons, not more Arlen Specters. I say that this only hurts us. We need to find ways to break into the shells of those who do not have time to come out and listen. We need to show those pigeonholed into one debate that there are other, vital debates going on. We need to translate our message into terms that can win back the millions of winnable voters whom we lost in this cycle.

You suggest that I'm denying the voters' inherent agency. No. I want us to reach out to voters because they do have agency. What gives me hope is that many of them executed that agency to agree to the war, to the tax cuts, or to any number of other issues, in specific. Voters do not vote wholesale for their candidate's positions. If they did, Karl Rove would be correct and George Bush would have a mandate on the debate.

They don't, he doesn't, and you're wrong.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mary said...

Thanks for a good read! I haven't read enough to figure out if you're a conservative or liberal but it's refreshing to stumble on something that isn't polarized and is written intelligently.

November 21, 2004 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Prajwal said...

Thank you, especially since you posted the first comment ever on this blog! I have my politics that should reveal themselves, but I try to remain reasoned, above all else. I'm glad that someone out there thinks that that attempt, at least thus far, has been successful.

November 23, 2004 at 2:37 AM  

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