These Low Information Voters Will Be Our Undoing

white working classThe results of the 2012 recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tell you most of what you need to know about the state of politics in the United States.

On the one hand, you have a governor who did not hide his desire to divide and conquer the unions, eliminate collective bargaining, decimate government services and serve a small cadre of wealthy, powerful and shady corporate interests. He was bought by Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers, and other criminal organizations. There’s even a possible federal indictment for him on the horizon, in connection with an embezzlement investigation that has already ensnared six of his associates and aides.

Yet, despite all this, Walker survived the recall, and it wasn’t even close. Plus, he did it with the support of 38 percent of union households – you know, the people Walker wanted and still wants to crush. Various explanations have been given for the election results, including the notion that the people simply didn’t like the idea of a recall, or that the Super PACs flooded Wisconsin with money for their boy Walker, giving him a sizable financial advantage over the Democratic challenger and handing him victory. And he did it without the help of the Jim Crow-style voter ID bill he signed into law.

So, what’s going on here? No one can question the corrupting influence of money in politics, particularly since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Money is a big factor in elections, and when a few billionaires can decide which jerk to put in office, their money trumps the votes and drowns out the voices of the common folk. But still, the 1 percenters require voters to get their candidate in office and seal the deal. These people, known as “low information” voters – a charitable and technical sounding term for uneducated, ignorant or gullible – are the real problem.

In the Wisconsin recall election, and countless elections throughout the country, both state and national, these low information voters vote against their economic interests and derail the democratic system. A democracy works only with an educated, informed populace, which the United States lacks and desperately needs if it will have any chance of overcoming its dysfunction.

White working class voters have made a pact with the devil – in the case of Republican Party, this should be taken in a literal sense – and now they (and all of us) are paying for it. Convinced that government programs are welfare – translated to mean the blacks and Latinos are getting freebees they don’t deserve – they will oppose them if doing so will hurt blacks more than whites. It is the legacy of the Southern Strategy that has allowed conservatives to politically capitalize on white resentment of black progress. That resentment is summed up in a scene from the 1997 film, Rosewood, a film depicting the massacre of a prosperous black Florida town by a white lynch mob. The following is an exchange between two white men in the film:

Man #1: You know he’s [Sylvester] got a piano? A ni**er with a goddamn piano. I’ve been working all my life, I ain’t got a piano.

Man #2: You don’t know how to play one.

Man #1: That ain’t the point. Old man Cummer, up that house of his, he’s got a piano. That ni**er’s got one, and I don’t.

The Rosewood massacre of 1923, like the Tulsa race riot two years earlier, was precipitated by claims that a black man raped a white woman. But the racial tensions in these massacres and others reflected an underlying social and economic competition.

While some working-class and poor whites have been content with being one rung above people of color on the totem pole, still they have remained on a very low rung and out of luck. There is a reason why the U.S. does not have a vibrant labor movement. And there is a reason why America maintains the flimsiest social safety net and the worst economic inequality of the advanced nations. It is because white members of the 99 percent – or enough of them, at least – have acted not in their own interests, but in the interests of the 1 percent. It is oppression by remote control, and the oppressed are made to feel like winners even as they emerge empty handed.

And the culture wars, including gun worship, abortion bans, homophobia and immigrant bashing, become substitutes for concrete policies of economic uplift and social progress.

Faced with hard times, people have clear choices. Either they join forces across racial and ethnic lines and fight their common adversary, or they double down on the dumbness, thrive on misinformation and assign scapegoats.

David A. LoveThe Tea Party, which now prevails in national politics and owns a major political party, represents the latter of the two choices. It is this mindset that gives us creeps running state houses throughout the country – not just in Wisconsin. For example, the governor of Michigan is dismantling and disenfranchising majority-black cities, while the governor of Florida, the largest Medicare fraudster of all time in his old job, is purging 182,000 Latino and black voters from the rolls.

And yet, once again, someone out there is voting for these people. Until we resolve this, America will never get any better.

David Love
Black Commentator

Posted: Saturday, 16 June 2012

Comments

  1. Hwood007 says

    These people, known as “low information” voters – a charitable and technical sounding term for uneducated, ignorant or gullible – are the real problem.”

    I agree, in 2008, the voting line in front of me was full of them.  I said little as the line moved so slow, getting ever closer to the place where we could vote.  I am sure they still have little thought of what they had done.

  2. Sam Wise says

    David, you’re “dumbing down” the situation by blaming white racists for our ills. Here’s a more complicated analysis:
     
    Sure, racism still exists. But this country elected Barack Obama as president. There are plenty of whites who accept him as one of us – a middle class, educated American who we thought would promote policies that forward our interests. He turned out to be pawn of the rich, but oh well, that’s another story.
     
    Plenty of people of color are manipulated into voting against their interests. A good example is the ignorant beliefs behind the biblical excuses used to oppress gays and lesbians, especially since the Bible was historically used to oppress African Americans as well. North Carolina’s recent passage of their homophobic Amendment One is a prime example, with religious bigots of all shades voting to slam same-sex families.
     
    Your example above is a couple of jerks from a movie. C’mon. Do you think many white Americans mind if a hard working person of color has a piano? No. What bothers people today is when certain groups have a tendency to utilize public services more than other groups. A good example is the illegal aliens who did NOT pay taxes, but who obtained IRS tax numbers and applied and received billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds last year. The IRS isn’t even going after them, probably because they’ve already sent that stolen money to their country of origin. Another example is intergenerational welfare. Section 8 recipients routinely have more and more babies, in spite of the fact that they’re currently depending on public money for food, housing, health care and utilities for themselves and their current children. That kind of thing tends to bother people who are working for a living. But liberals don’t believe there should be any restrictions on recipients of public welfare. When there’s a pattern of specific minority groups accessing/abusing these services, people get angry at our so called “progressive” policies that keep handing them more of our resources. This isn’t about pianos, or the success of hard working, intelligent African Americans. It’s about knowing and/or seeing many other people who refuse to work, and who refuse to take responsibility for the children they’re bringing into this world to dump on the rest of us. It’s about looking around and realizing that some people have made a lifestyle of living off the rest of us. Intergenerational welfare is not and hand up, it’s clearly a hand out. If the left isn’t going to do anything about that, moderates will look for Republicans to solve these problems.
     
    So David, I wish it were as simple as educating all those “dumb whites” who keep voting republican. But it’s not that simple, because those whites often have personal experiences that cause them to vote that way. Many of them have children who can’t afford college. Meanwhile, liberals want to use our tax money to fund college educations of children of illegal aliens, then give them citizenship as a reward for their “sacrifice” of accepting that college education! (DREAM Act). Of course those “dumb whites” are going to vote Republican when our Democrats are so eager to hand their hard earned money to other groups of people, many of whom haven’t ever even paid taxes!
     
    If you want the votes of working class whites, than we need to do something about the perception that many people of color are deliberately choosing to live off America’s taxpayers. Because that perception is true far too often. And please don’t say this is just Fox News nonsense. If it’s not true, let’s prove it. If it is true, let’s change it.

  3. JoeWeinstein says

    Never mind ‘white’ or ‘working class’.  The key is ‘voters’.  Not deliberative deciders, but at-whim voters, free to be ‘low-information’ or ‘mis-information’, without challenge.  This method of deciding public questions is ultimately irrational and illegitimate, no matter how traditional.  People of average intelligence, when confronted with a single decision or two on concrete matters which affect them, and when forced to engage in dialog in a small but diverse group and hear testimony on the matter, can often be excellent decision-makers.  But mass-voting, with the stakes being an entire two or four years of multiple decisions, all to be made by someone else, and many concerning issues which have not even manifested themselves, is an irrational way to make public decisions. 

  4. Mark Westwood says

    We also might be overlooking a problem caused by Ronald Reagan with the deregulation of radio and television and the elimination of the fairness act. Yes we are fighing and battling, the way you fight a disease, not with your fists, but we are losing to this phenomenon Reagan has caused now doubled down by the Koch Brother’s. How can you fight years of dumbed down training by a Excrment in Blowhard Radio network that is coast to coast from a satellite high in the sky on 500 + radio stations? Limbaugh has done far more damage than David Walker. People who listen to this idiot are actually dumber than before they started because now they have the wrong facts.

    Right after being re-elected, President Obama needs to make the restoration of the fairness doctrine, and giving the airwaves back to the people one of his number one priorities.

  5. Ryder says

    That David is talking about “fighting” is indicative of the hostile perspective of the unions… joining to do battle.  The irony is that this call to join across racial and ethnic lines is made after decades of leftist separation of race and ethnicity.  True color-blind Americans see people only as Americans, while the progressives usually put race identification BEFORE country.   The left sees people through a racial lens.

    But this means that country comes a distant second.

    This means that driving cities bankrupt is not a concern… driving counties bankrupt is not worth considering, dragging a state into the depths of debt is “not my problem”…  With the unionized left, it’s “how big is my paycheck?”.

    The vast majority of all Americans enter contracts as individuals… but for those pampered by union protectionism, especially in the public sector where the employer, the people, are not at the bargaining table… just union leaders and corruptible politicians that generally don’t think twice before selling out the people, and give away money they don’t have, and that their city/county/state simply can’t afford…  and then everything collapses.

    It’s hard to imaging a more corrupt system.

    Even FDR knew that collective bargaining in the public sector was an impossible ides, and ethically bankrupt.

    the fact that 38% of “union households” seem to feel the same way, tells you something… they’re in unions, not because of free choice… they are in unions out of ****force****.  Where does the progressive left think it should have the power of *****force***** over free citizens?  That they MUST joint organizations, for the “privilege” of working?  That they MUST pay dues?

    The progressive left is about freedom, ONLY when it serves them.  When it doesn’t, then force, coercion, and confiscation is just fine and dandy.

    Public sector jobs are more secure than private sector jobs, if only for the fact that government can’t go out of business.  My company can.  I’m big enough to live with that fact… and face life and the uncertainty that goes with it.

    • says

      A lot of anger here against corruption in unions.  In my view its not just unions that can become corrupt, its also all the way up the economic chain.  And how do we protect the public from corruption in business?  When business leaders corrupt the political process? When business leaders cynically exploit a history of ethnic bias in the population?

      I do think we are bankrupt as a country until we solve these problems.

      I think what David Love is trying to say here is that informed dialog that breaks apart barriers, not demonization of the opposition that stiffens barriers, is a way back to sanity in our political and economic discourse. 

    • PVP says

      Ryder, if you’re so sure what you call “the progressive left” is about, and if you hate them so much, then why do you read an e-paper called L.A. Progressive?  Go turn on Fox News.

      • Hwood007 says

        Actually an old Asian general tells you to read and study the words of those you consider not to be your friends.

    • Da4waters says

      As a member of a public employee union, Glendale Teachers Association, I can say that I personally know the people on the bargaining team negotiating on my behalf. Many if not most education employees can say the same.

      It disturbs me that the anti-union forces in the media manage to paint a picture of corruption and disconnection from the members, when in fact we are our union. Those in Wisconsin who sat in for weeks and lost pay did so because they were personally motivated, not forced by some outside entity. The press tends to single out the few corrupt individuals gaming the system as if they are typical, and turn public opinion against unions.

      Government can go out of business. That is the goal of the Republican party, to sell and outsource government functions to the private sector.

      Consider who will gain from the destruction of unions. Corporations who will purchase schools, prisons, police and fire departments when they fail and are turned over to the private sector. Consider how different those entities will look when they are no longer non-profit. Privatized prisons, Blackwater in Iraq, and Michigan cities where the citizens can no longer vote on local issues could give you an indication.

  6. Beverly Franco says

    David Love’s take on low-information voters is similar to my thinking and experience with some family and friends.   Its frustrating to hear comments that seem to be based on hearsay and simple, common sound-bites. Because these same people who I am very familiar with, don’t read a lot and appear limited in how they process information, they appear to latch onto much of the rhetoric and really believe those same sound-bites and are very good at passing them on.   Also, frustrating is their seeming refusal to enage in conversations about these issues.  In my estimation, they can’t, won’t and don’t want to have dialogue- we are stuck.   Its not just the low-information individuals, but ourselves in believing each of us can make a difference.   That’s the message I work to pas son and keep repeating it. Its hard to carry on a conversation with yourself! – How to address this is a real challenge.

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