Building Our Party: Smarter voters = More and better Democrats

"The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter." - Winston Churchill
"As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing." - Karl Rove
"When people think, Democrats win." - Bill Clinton
Okay, enough quotes. :-)

In America, the people rule - or so we're told. Yet we are constantly reminded of the gripping power of big-moneyed corporations and special interests on American government.

You know what? The voters themselves do have the final say. Every member of the US House, and almost every member of the US Senate, is where they are because the people of their state/district - a plurality, at least - chose him or her to represent them. Those corrupt politicians whose pockets are laden with lobbyist money would not be in office except for the simple fact that they received more votes in the last election than their opponent.

Now, I assume that most people are of good intent. Does anyone believe that many of the more than 130 million Americans who voted a couple months ago did so knowing that the candidates they supported backed dangerous, anti-freedom, pro-big-money, anti-education policies? I doubt it.

So why do people vote for those kinds of politicians? To me it boils down to one thing: They don't know better!

It seems like the average American voter doesn't know enough to make an informed decision at the ballot box. Many voters - those who don't skip down-ticket races - will vote for a candidate because "I've heard of her" or "he seems like a good guy." And as long as voters keep re-electing politicians by overwhelming margins, the pols will think, "it's okay, the people will still vote for me, so I'll just worry about me, me, me."

I firmly believe that if people knew what Republicans (and, yes, some who call themselves Democrats) really stood for, progressive Democrats would be doing a lot better at the polls. I argue that the more educated the electorate is, the more likely they will be to support progressives in Democratic primaries and Democrats in general elections. In other words, the smarter people are when it comes to politics and government, the more Democrats we'd have in office, and the better those Democrats would be.

That's why progressive Democrats need to do a better job of informing voters so they make well-informed decisions. And when I say well-informed decisions, I don't just mean in the voting booth. (More on citizenship in the next week or so.)

Educating voters will be critical in not only fending off right-wing attacks in big-ticket races - making voters less susceptible to buying said attacks - but also in helping people understand the candidates and issues at stake in local and other down-ticket races, which provide a farm system of sorts for higher offices.

So what can we do to inform voters? Well, I won't pretend to know the complete answer to that. But here are some thoughts.

While posting articles on websites and issuing press releases may motivate the party faithful to support the cause, what good will it be in winning over those who aren't as dedicated to the progressive Democratic cause? To that end, I call upon Democratic Party and progressive organizations to do more to reach out to those who don't vote Democratic as much and to educate them on the issues that matter.

I realize that most progressive and Democratic groups have little extra money to spend. Even so, I argue that a cost-conscious, year-round persuasion effort may be a wise investment in the long-term electoral success of the Democratic Party.

Some of that money can be used to publicize Democrats' positions on key issues, through mailings, television, and so forth. During the campaign, candidates, staffers, and volunteers do their part to persuade voters to vote a certain way. When campaigns are not going on, there is still plenty of opportunity to keep voters in the loop about the important issues of the day and to solidify in their minds that it is the Democrats who stand for what's best for all of us.

Again, I won't pretend to know what tactics would work best in terms of helping voters become more informed. But I believe changing the way left-leaning groups educate voters is important to ensuring that those voters vote Democratic - and pick progressive Dems over corporatists.

(PS: You could look at this post as my argument for keeping the 50 state strategy.)

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