Monday, August 31, 2009

Are we becoming a nation of stupid voters?

That may sound like a question asked in anger by a losing political party, but in fact, more and more sociological work is being done that answers in the affirmative. One recent essay by Mary Grabar makes that case. One of the more frightening anecdotes she tells (it is frightening because it is all too familiar), is of a surgeon and medical student at a townhall meeting debating health care reform.

One young student, a Doogie Howser type, cocksure in his white coat, was convinced that he was on the right side of compassion and “social justice.”

The surgeon, who was not wearing the doctor’s coat, argued against the government encroachment into the relationship between doctor and patient. He admitted that there are problems with health care currently, but argued quite logically and ethically against the extreme measures of the bill. He cited his experience of working in a government (VA) hospital. He said that competition means good service for patients and gave examples and reasons.

The med student accused him of “trying to make a profit.” (The good doctor had said he treats at least a couple of children of illegal aliens a month for free.)

As the surgeon understandably became increasingly frustrated in the debate, the med student used techniques that are now common in the classroom: emotional sabotaging tactics under the cover of “conflict resolution.” Acting as if the surgeon were an unreasonable child (or more likely senile), the student said, “Let me crystallize this …” The tone was condescending.

Grabar is not alone in her observations of students and younger voters. Begining with Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, we have recently seen a slew of works devoted to the dumbing down of the newest set of 20-somethings. Among my favorites are Bauerlein's The Dumbest Generation and Tim Clydesdale's The first Year Out (not to mention the seminal works done by Niel Postman).


Rusty said...

In "The Art of Political War", David Horowitz posits that the Right lags behind the Left insofar as the Right fails to develop succinct, heart-tugging talking points, instead of arguments. The Left has succeeded, in his opinion, because it deftly frames the issues on its terms (e.g., pro-choice vs. anti-abortion, party of tolerance vs. that of intolerance, supporter of women's rights, etc.). The healthcare debate is a classic example of this in that Obamacare supporters consistently frame the issue as one of compassion, that all living persons deserve good healthcare, and that we should all work together for the common good. As if it were really that simple...

Phil Steiger said...

I completly agree that "bumper stickers" are running the debate on the left right now. The kinds of memes and slogans passed around Facebook, for instance, are all meaningless and they all are intended to favor nationalized health care. That side of the issue has succeded (for now) in associating compassion with government care.