Monday, June 02, 2014

Educating voters a permanent campaign for social progress

Ultimately, we get to decide what sort of economy we want. We voters get to decide whether we want everyone to have a decent standard of living (or some are forced to grind out in poverty). We get to decide whether we want to live in pollution and suffer the health consequences or whether we want clean air and water. We get to vote for who runs the government. That's a precious power.

But it's difficult for someone to do that if they don't understand some of the basics of government.

How do people learn about politics? Public education only gets us so far, as it's the rare high school student who is too young to vote who will really learn about government and politics. Political campaigns aren't likely to spend a lot of their time educating voters -- their job is to get their candidates elected, by any means necessary.

Newspapers are pretty good at teaching people about politics, especially editorial boards and columnists. That's how I first learned about politics. I liked reading editorials and magazine articles and columnists who would tell a story about how things worked. But then again, I was interested. What about the people who aren't interested enough to seek out the information?

This is a particular problem for Democrats and progressives. People with less education and less income are less less likely to understand that voting for progressive policies and candidates is the right move for them. People with more education and more income vote more often and understand that voting for Republicans is in their interest. The strong correlation between education and income means that candidates who focus on raising incomes -- not perpetuating wealth -- have a harder time convincing their base to understand the connection between voting and increasing income. The Democratic base is just less educated.

Educating lower-income voters about politics is a permanent feature of electing Democratic candidates. It's also a good thing to do for society as educated voters are a good thing, no matter what. But to implement the progressive agenda, we've got to elect more Democrats. And to elect more Democrats, we've got to educate more low-income voters.

I think it means a media company.

We ought to have a newspaper. The content matters but the distribution is more important. We should be mailing this newspaper to the less-educated voters and potential voters. Maybe it gets thrown away, but I think some of these papers get read. And with that infrastructure in place, mailing regularly (every other week) we can, over time, turn our base of potential voters and voters who pick the wrong side due to a lack of knowledge into a governing majority.

That's the base upon which progressive policy gets built: one voter at a time.

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