Friday, March 09, 2018

A Better Voter

A recent facebook conversation brought up what seems to be a logical error with a current political strategy.

The claim is that, if we provide people with better political candidates, that people will vote for them, and that this will improve the quality of our legislators.

The problem with this view . . . .

It assumes that voters have not had better political candidates in the past.

When we realize that voters have had an opportunity to select better political candidates in the past and rejected them, then we have to question the idea that the best way to get better legislators today is to invest our time and effort into presenting them with better political candidates today.

In fact, what we should be expecting is that voters are going to do the same to the new and improved political candidates we offer that they have done to the old but better political candidates in the past and reject them - putting into office the same type of bad legislators that they have preferred in the past over the higher quality candidates otherwise available.

This suggests that, if you want to get better legislators into public office, you are first going to have to create a better quality of voter.

Then the question becomes: How do we do that?

Here's a strategy . . . you go to everybody who disagrees with you and denigrate and belittle them, shout them down and insult them every time they try to make a point, and "block", "ignore", or otherwise silence them so that you do not need to listen to them and their pathetic, stupid ideas.

Do you think that would work?

I'm suspicious that this is not the best strategy either.

In fact, if I were to take a look at what I would consider an effective strategy, I would have to say that the model that has historically shown to be the most effective is that of the religious missionary. That is, you go into the neighborhoods of "unbelievers", dress up well, be polite and courteous, and say, "I would like to talk with you about rational voting."

It is significant to note that I said, "talk with" and not "talk to" - because an important part of this conversation is listening, finding out what the speaker actually and sincerely cares about, and addressing those concerns.

The process requires taking into consideration certain facts about human psychology. One of the most important facts is that people need to be a part of a community. Ripping an individual out of their community by putting them into conflict with that community is not only an impractical plan, it doesn't show much concern for the people one is talking to.

Again, religious missionaries provide the best model in that it has largely involved talking to whole communities at once. It did not seek to turn neighbor against neighbor. Instead, the missionary recognized that the only way he was going to reach the mother in a family was to reach out to the father, children, parents, siblings, and others in that person's community as well. Towards this end, they often moved into the community, sought to concern themselves with and advance the interests of the people that they aimed to serve, and to make themselves a part of the community as a whole.

History is also filled with other models. These are the models of crusade, inquisition, jihad, genocide, and holocaust. One cannot deny that they existed. Though I would hope that anybody reading this would be of the opinion that those options are morally unavailable. In looking for ways to create a better voter, we are looking for morally permissible ways - and those ways involve respect, concern, consideration, and kindness.


Doug S. said...

Was the American Civil War a morally permissible way to create a better voter?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

I found it interesting to discover that people in the north did try to establish a type of missionary program to explain the wrongness of slavery to the people of the south, and southern legislators banned the efforts.

Such people were deemed a threat to society on the grounds that they may spark a slave uprising so, for the sake of preserving public safety, their efforts were prohibited by law.

Anonymous said...

If the reason for politeness is a prediction that rudeness and incivility will make people annoyed and less likely to listen and be persuaded, then there are some assumptions here that remain to be proved empirically. At an anecdotal level, there are very few things that I and people I know find more annoying than door-to-door religious salesmen. At the same time, people like Johnny Rotten, lead singer of the Sex Pistols, are beloved and revered precisely because they are so rude - and it was he, more than anyone else in the 1970s, who popularized the idea of anarchy. Sometimes rude people can be more persuasive than polite people. Moreover there are plausible reasons for this: humans evolved in the Pleistocene Era, during which we were organized in small groups, often with a single leader, or a small group of elders, quite often an "alpha male," a familial chief, who set the tone in terms of customs and mores. Unfortunately, it's plausible that humans are more predisposed to listen to the opinions of a blustering loudmouth - one who signals that his alliances are so secure that he doesn't need anyone's approval - than to obey the pleading and cajoling of itinerant beggars and those that resemble them. You may be correct, but I'm going to need to see some statistics.