The topic for our discussion is “What Informed Voters Need to Know.” The topic itself is informative. It presumes that there are some voters who are — and will remain — uninformed. It presumes that some knowledge — some set of facts — is essential to being — or becoming — an informed voter. It thus, by implication, privileges some form of “knowing.” And finally, it presumes that voters, having acquired the knowledge necessary to be classified as “informed,” will vote based on how that knowledge interacts with their principles and philosophies, and not on something else — say, who has the broader smile or the grayer hair. Or whose supporters have been able to out-buy and out-shout the opposition.
I think the first presumption, that some voters are and will remain uninformed, is a fair one. Unfortunately. Obviously, one of our goals at this institution is to reduce that number as far as possible. But let’s consider for a moment why voters — so many voters — remain uninformed. After all, this is the Information Age. Though print versions of newspapers may be dwindling, newspapers themselves are doing OK on the Internet. TV options have mushroomed — perhaps that’s not the best word — radio has gone in the last 50 years from almost all music with some news to at least an even split between entertainment and talk. And even the entertainment includes sports journalism. Blogs, websites, Google, Twitter, Facebook — we have more information than we know what to do with. If information were food, everyone would have a three-course gourmet feast at every meal.