Friday, June 06, 2008

An Educated Electorate

I was discussing a new piece of software with a friend today, and that caused me to reflect on the dangers of an uneducated electorate.

An uneducated electorate is one that currently exists in the United States. The vast majority of voters are people who for whatever reason will never take the time to actually research their candidates, issues and policies before filling out their ballot. As an example, we have the sad case of California Democrat Laura Richardson. This woman, a member of the United States Congress, has defaulted on no less than three home loans in less than two-year time frame. According to The Hill newspaper,
The tale of Rep. Laura Richardson’s (D) personal housing crisis got even more captivating Tuesday as her office said the freshman lawmaker defaulted on loans she took out for not just one, but three, California homes.

The news of one of Richardson’s properties recently being sold at auction captured widespread attention last week in the wake of the nation’s housing crisis. But that was only part of the story.

Richardson’s office said Tuesday she has caught up on her payments and renegotiated the terms of loans she took out to purchase homes in San Pedro and Long Beach, Calif. Her office confirmed that the lawmaker defaulted on both of these homes and was risking foreclosure when she went months without making payments.

And yet, in a new story this morning, it seems that despite Richardson's history of financial irresponsibility, and her penchant of borrowing against her homes (that she later allows to be sold at auction) to lend her campaign money- a history that suggests Richardson's ethics are less-than-stellar- the Daily breeze newspaper reported that her constituents gave her a resounding victory in Tuesday's primary elections.

Let us be entirely honest. This woman should not even be considered for a position of responsibility such as that of a United States Member of Congress. Her less-than-forthright treatment of the facts and her seeming inability to understand that her financial failures are extremely germane to her qualifications for elected office should disqualify her from consideration. And if we had an informed and objective electorate (and if the media actually perffromed their job without the partisan bias that is so prevalent) then I believe that Richardson would not now be in a position where she is one short step (and in her district winning the primary is equivalent to winning the election, so badly are the California electoral districts gerrymandered) from becoming a Member of Congress.

I remember reading an excellent novel by Helen MacInnes some years ago entitled Friends & Lovers. The protagonist made a speech about having an informed electorate that has never left my memory. he made many of the arguments that I am making today. if an electorate is informed and is willing to do the research, then the cesspool of corruption that currently surrounds most political personages and institutions would soon be cleaned out. But only as long as the electorate stays engaged and informed. Once they sink back into their customary stupor and allow the media and talking head who are in actuality no better qualified to pass judgement than they to do their thinking for them, the dross and the fat will begin to collect again.

I would like very much to see an informed electorate that could argue the issues without resorting to insults. But unfortunately most people would rather trust a journalist (who is a member of one of the least rigorous disciplines in academia) to tell them what to think. And so we have elected officials like Randy Cunningham, William Jefferson, Laura Richardson and too many others. these people are not in politics to serve their fellow Americans. No, they are in politics to enrich themselves at the expense of their fellow Americans. It is of no importance to such as they if our great nation collapses due to their silly, uninformed and reckless stewardship- as long as they can continue to get the kind of sweetheart deals Richardson got, or collect cash-filled freezers like Jefferson and Cunningham, they could not care less about the state of their country.

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