“Uneducated citizenry”

Gubernatorial voting is due to happen in Maine in a few days. The street corners are littered with placards declaring the names of the candidates, and I am disgusted by them.

What is their purpose?

I suspect that it is the worst possible thing…for the elections, and for democracy. If they were in front of people’s houses, stating their political preference and inviting a discussion with the homeowner, that would be an excellent thing. Thomas Jefferson said: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” No better way to get educated than having a friendly discussion on the issues and the stances of each candidate.

“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people”  Thomas Jefferson

But with these placards on public corners, and broadcasting the names of ALL candidates, they are not invitations for discussion. They give no information on the candidates stance on any issue. In fact, the only thing they do is announce what political party the candidate belongs to, and that is indirect because of the color. Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.49.16 AM

The purpose for these is obvious. They are there to sway the undecided or ignorant voter, using simple advertising techniques: the more signs someone sees for Candidate X, the higher the likelihood that, when staring at the ballot next week and with no idea of what candidate to choose, they will say “Well, it seems that a ton of people want Candidate X, and I want to be on the winning side, so I’ll vote for him!”

This is such an affront to our democracy…instead of putting effort into educating people about topics and stances, the candidates are counting on people being uneducated and using techniques to leverage that for their vote, at the expense of our survival as a free people.

It would be far better for uneducated voters to abstain from voting than to vote mindlessly, based entirely on being played by advertising techniques. Of course, best of all would be for the voter to get educated, but these signs do nothing for that.

I would like to see a ban on these mindless signs unless they have a statement about the candidates stance on some issue on them. But of course, that won’t happen because that might actually drive away a vote. Better, then, to just scream the loudest at the ignorant masses and hope that someone is swayed by the volume.

I think people would be wiser to vote AGAINST whoever has the most placards without any info on them, as that candidate obviously places their desire to win over their responsibility to educate the people. Just how well will they serve if elected, I ask you?


2 responses to ““Uneducated citizenry”

  1. The whole notion of an elected vote being meaningful in the sense that it actually results in an accurate representation of what people actually want is fundamentally flawed. Kenneth Arrow, an economist and political theorist, has essentially proven that no ranked preferences can be assigned to a community-wide ranking if there are three or more options (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow's_impossibility_theorem).
    Then again, simply because a system has a flaw in it, it does not mean that it is actually harmful or a problem overall.

    • Thanks for the comment, Responder. I’m familiar with Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem; it basically says there is no fair voting system if there are more than two candidates. But I don’t think that really applies here: pitching to people based solely on name recognition is still a deeply damaging process for democracy.

      Just because a system is flawed doesn’t mean that it ISN’T actually harmful either. 🙂

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