At the end of last year, I wrote a series called “Ten ways to take a stand against ignorance.” Many of the suggestions there are especially important during election years.Â An informed electorate is the best defense against political claptrap of all kinds.
After seeing some of the idiotic finger-pointing and “yes you did, no I didn’t” carryings-on from this current United States presidential election campaign, I offer the following suggestions (in conjunction with the other ten) for anyone who wants to become a better informed voter.
1.Â Do not rely on one source for most, or all, of your news.
It is essential to pay attention to multiple viewpoints, because no one source has a lock on the facts.Â If you see a comment that intrigues or annoys you, go see what some other news source (preferably one that leans toward “the other side”) has to say on the matter.Â There’s guaranteed to be more to it than any one news source offers.
2.Â Do not take one side’s word for what the other side thinks or does.
If you didn’t see the original, make it your business to find out what it was, before you form an opinion.Â Filtering all your information through someone else’s biases leaves you no option but to think like they do.Â Make up your own mind.
3.Â As an adjunct to items 1 and 2, become a fact checker.
There are many web sites available to help you, such as snopes.com and factcheck.org.Â Â Don’t just nod at things that sound plausible.Â The people we agree with can slip hogwash past us faster than anything.
4.Â Pay attention to what the candidates actually say.
Do not try to explain away or excuse statements that make no sense.Â If you can find transcripts of interviews and debates, read them.Â What might sound good while a candidate is saying it may turn into gibberish when you see it written down.
5.Â Do not be too quick to condemn “flip-flopping.”
Intelligent people change their views if new information makes it feasible.Â People who stubbornly cling to the same old views regardless of how the situation changes are living proof that Emerson was right:Â A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.Â The person who’s willing to keep learning and willing to change his or her opinion is light-years ahead of the person who says “I know all I need to know” or “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.”
Help yourself, help your country
It helps to have a working knowledge of recent history, but that’s not something that is accomplished overnight.Â Too many of us were bored silly in history classes in school.Â Too many of our classes had to slog through ancient history for too long and never got close to the present day.
Call your local public library and ask to speak to a librarian.Â Ask for a good book on 20th century history.Â Make sure your preferences are clear.Â Not too long?Â Not too technical?Â Not too focused on single issues?Â Whatever will appeal to you–ask for it and listen to the recommendations.Â Then, of course, read the book.Â Once you have a feel for what happened in the 20th century, you can better appreciate what makes sense in the 21st.
Above all, regardless of your choice of candidate, make it a point to go and vote on Election Day.Â In many states it’s not too late to register if you haven’t already.Â If you think it’s too difficult for you to get to the polls, request an absentee ballot.Â It’s not too late for that, either.Â Let’s stop putting dimwits in office, by not being dimwits ourselves.Hope you'll recommend my posts via your favorite social media. Just don't copy the material as your own.