Ignorant voters present on both sides

Will Rogers once said, “Elections are a good deal; like marriages, there’s no accounting for anyone’s taste. Every time we see a bridegroom we wonder why she ever picked him, and it’s the same with public officials.”

With that in mind, I must note that it’s been interesting to see the reaction to the election results from the disgruntled both on and off campus.

As usual, there have been vows to leave the country. The Oracle reported that College Democrats head John Duddy was inspired to “resign from his position, withdraw from school and make plans to move to Canada” as a result of the election outcome. Off campus, there have been similar echoes from many, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said, “Let’s all head to the airport and get out of the country.”

Another interesting development has been the accusation of a conspiracy theory that involved rigging the voting process. The proponents of this idea attempt to use the difference between the exit polls and the actual returns to make their case, notably missing the fact that the exit polls were wrong — the samples included disproportionate numbers of traditionally Democratic voters.But the most interesting reaction I have seen has been the claim that voters are just ignorant.

MSNBC’s Ron Reagan Jr. was the first I heard to make that accusation. When it became clear via polls that many people voted on what were coined as “moral values” and subsequently banned gay marriage in many states, the son of the late president retorted, “I’ve heard political reasons for supporting these sorts of amendments. And I’ve heard emotional reasons.” He dismissed such voting by adding, “It’s not a rational choice here.”

Britain’s The Daily Mirror soon followed, with their front page featuring a photo of President George W. Bush with the words, “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”

And in a particularly harsh opinion piece on www.slate.com, Jane Smiley wrote, “The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry.”

I’ve also heard that claim of voter ignorance from professors and students on campus.

But for all the ignorant voters, there were more who actually knew enough about the issues to make an informed decision, and their decisions were split. They were split not because one group was ignorant and the other informed, but rather because one group had one set of values and priorities and the other had, well, others.

We can see this played out in the presidential election. The polls showed that those voters who thought “moral values” were more important tended to vote for President Bush. Those who valued the state of the economy, jobs and health care more leaned toward Sen. John Kerry.

Democrats have consistently relied on the concern people have about their own particular economic well-being trumping any nobler values they may have. In essence, they rely on people being selfish.

Reagan eluded to this mindset when he lamented, “See, that’s this moral value question.” He said it “induces people to, in many cases … vote against their economic interests.”

In fact, many Democrats, like Reagan, view such “moral” issues as unimportant and ignorance-based.

The confusion that causes many people to call those who vote contrary to them ignorant comes from the bias that we all have to believe that we are acting in the only rational and common-sense fashion. This bias causes one side to call the other side’s views dumb and ignorant. It’s the accuser’s way of feeling somehow more sophisticated and intelligent — basically an ego trip.

In truth, the difference in voting behavior is related more to the values and priorities we all have than the ignorance one side may possess. It’s really a difference in world perspectives, a clash between contrasting values and priorities.

On Tuesday, Americans chose “moral values” over the value of personal economic gain.

Adam Fowler is a senior majoring in political science. oraclefowler@yahoo.com