A Plea For Informed Voters

The first of the presidential debates air tonight. Believe me, I can totally understand if you’re giving them a pass. I’m taping it, but I’ll only watch it if I can’t find a good online transcript somewhere. I just can’t stand hearing Bush talk, and let’s face it, debates have ceased to truly demonstrate much of anything. Personally, I think the main rule for the debates should be this: whoever says the word “Saddam” first loses.

POST-DEBATE UPDATE: A transcript can be found here.

But that’s just me. I’ve made up my mind, and I can’t imagine what either of these guys could possibly say that would change anything, especially Bush. Since I don’t believe a word the man says, there’s not much talking he could do to convince me of anything.

However, that’s not what I came here to talk about. What I came here to do was follow-up on my previous post, where I called the majority of the American voters “stupid”.

Two polls were recently released that show that many Americans cannot successfully distinguish their asses from elephants. It shows that a disturbing number of Americans have completely wrong ideas about which candidate favors what.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes poll found this:

Majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assumed that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (84%), and the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the International Criminal Court (66%), the treaty banning land mines (72%), and the Kyoto Treaty on global warming (51%). They were divided between those who knew that Bush favors building a new missile defense system now (44%) and those who incorrectly believe he wishes to do more research until its capabilities are proven (41%). However, majorities were correct that Bush favors increased defense spending (57%) and wants the US, not the UN, to take the stronger role in developing Iraq’s new government (70%).

The National Annenberg Election Survey repeated these findings, noting that:

A majority of adults still do not know which presidential candidate favors allowing workers to invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market, which candidate favors eliminating tax breaks for overseas profits of American corporations, or which candidate favors completely eliminating the estate tax.

There are a myriad of reasons for this, not all of which are the fault of the people. Political campaigns seldom discuss the actual issues, and the media seldom pushes them to. This particular campaign has focused far more on a war fought 35 years ago than on the one currently being fought. If all the candidates do is speak in dishonest sound bites, and all the media does is repeat them, it’s hard to figure out where they actually stand.

Hard, but not impossible. While the debates are still more gloss than substance, some knowledge can be gleaned from them. Also, here are some handy websites:

OnTheIssues.org – Websites that state plainly where each candidate stands on certain issues have a difficult task set for them. The main problem is, words do not always equal actions. It’s one thing to say you support, say, college education, but if you systematically vote against every bill that helps out colleges and students, where do you really stand? One such site I looked at took the stances from the candidates’ campaign sites and literature, which I find completely unacceptable. I’m not interested in what someone tells me to get my vote; I’m interested in what they do once they have it. This site seemed to have a little more action vs. talk, but I’m sure there’s a better one out there. If you know of one, please let me know and I’ll link it instead.

FactCheck.org – Sadly, we’ve come to expect politicians to lie regularly, so they do so unabashedly. However, the situation has gotten really out of hand both on the part of the lying and the accepting of lies. This website checks claims against fact. There’s a bizarre notion going around now that facts simply represent a certain point of view. In most cases they don’t; they represent the world as it actually is. While any candidate should strive to improve the current situation, one can’t do so unless one is aware of how it actually is. Don’t accept anything you’re being told at face value; both sides are bending the truth.

Third Party Candidates – You may be surprised to know that there are more than two people running for President this year. Here’s a somewhat bland but informative guide to the offerings this year.

Every four years around this time there’s all this big hoo-ha about getting out and voting. Yes, please, by all means do so, but PLEASE do so as a thinking human. That doesn’t mean that I want you to vote for my guy, it just means to please actually make an informed decision. Please keep in mind if you watch the debate tonight that the winner will not be the next American Idol, will not be hanging out on your sofa, will not be hosting the Tonight Show. He’ll be making the decisions for America for the next four years. He’ll be bringing in a team of about a thousand people that will all be determining policy for the nation. He’ll be the spokesperson for America to the rest of the world. Don’t worry about whether he’s a nice guy you’d like to hang out with. Worry whether he can intelligently and competently deal with the task ahead of him.

Any monkey can pull a lever. We do not need more voters in this country. We need more intelligent, informed voters.

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