A Guide to Becoming a Sophisticated Voter
10 Simple Rules You Should Follow
According to data provided by the United States Census Bureau (USCB) “the 2020 presidential election had the highest voter turnout of the 21st century, with 66.8% of citizens 18 years and older voting in the election…” The data showed patterns of voter turnout by several categories including gender, income, education, race and age.
For example, the numbers indicate that women, as in previous elections, voted at a higher rate (68%) than men (65%). Voters (male and female) with incomes between $100,000-$149,999 voted at a higher rate (81%) than those whose income was between $30,000-$39,999 (63.6%).
The turnout rate for high school graduates was 55.5% versus 78% for those with a bachelor’s degree. It should be noted, that many observers have concluded that education is the most important socioeconomic factor affecting voter turnout.
Regarding ballots cast by race: 71% of white voters cast ballots; 62.6 % of Blacks; 53.7% Latinos; and 60% of Asian American voters cast ballots in 2020. While these numbers show an increase from previous presidential elections, a new wave of restrictive voting laws will in all likelihood have an adverse impact on non-white voter turnout in future elections.
The data also showed that voter turnout increased with age. Those between the ages of 65–74 voted at a rate of 76% while the rate for those between the ages of 18–24 was 51.4% — which represented the lowest among all age groups. However, an analysis by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, finds the news regarding young adults’ participation in the electoral process quite encouraging.
According to CIRCLE the turnout rate among the 18–24 age group represents “one of the highest youth voting rates in recent history and an 11-point increase from 2016 (39% to 50%). Additionally, its analysis “confirms young people’s commitment to political engagement, explores the impact of voting laws on youth turnout, and highlights the work still needed to facilitate young people’s electoral participation across the country.”
For me, part of the “work still needed” to be done begins with helping young people, particularly black males (who are least likely among all demographics to participate in electoral politics) become more sophisticated in their approach to electoral politics.
Let’s face it, the oligarchs (i.e. the one percent) and their sycophants in both major political parties spend enormous amounts of money to keep the present two party system in place. Why? As it currently exists — the two party system is designed to protect and advance the interest of the few at the expense of the many.
A vast swath of the American body politic just doesn’t seem to get this fundamental point. In fact, many voters associated with both major political parties, routinely vote against their own self-interest by supporting candidates who couldn’t care less about those who elected them or the issues they care most about. Their candidate(s)’ allegiance, particularly at the national level is to the billionaire class that controls both political parties.
Third party candidates and individuals who challenge the powerful duopoly are conveniently marginalized and muzzled. The most effective way of doing so is to simply ignore them. If they gain too much traction the powers that be merely resort to the tried, tested and always reliable strategy of tainting such outliers with the vile “communist” label.
Given the historical political socialization (i.e. brainwashing) of the American public it is not too difficult to understand why the electorate remains so gullible when fed a daily diet of social, political, economic and cultural misinformation (i.e. bull-sh**) by the mainstream (i.e. oligarchic controlled) press. It is instructive to note that the socialization (i.e. brainwashing) along racial lines has proven to be equally effective.
While the ascent of social media provides some hope to leveling the playing field it will take something even more powerful to effectively challenge the formidable two party system — a sophisticated voter. And the younger — the better.
Sophisticated voters are not easily seduced by words or charisma. There has to be something more about a given candidate — much more. They are not bamboozled by empty campaign promises or propaganda. They are impervious to archaic dogma, dog whistles — shallow appeals to mainstream prejudices. Sophisticated voters have done their homework. They recognize fact from fiction. For them “truth” is what matters. Sophisticated voters are an anathema to the demagogues, polished professional politicians and their benefactors in the ruling class.
For the ruling class, sophisticated voters are to be feared because their very presence represents a potential threat to the established social, political and economic order. The late, great labor organizer and radical activist Lucy Parsons once said “never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.”
The quote represents a powerful truth and provides one with even more reason to develop the necessary skills which will enable him/her to avoid becoming a mere drone in service to the American duopoly.
Below are ten rules which serve as a guide for those who desire to become sophisticated voters.
RULE # 1
BE AN INDEPENDENT THINKER
Malcolm X warned us that if we were not careful our enemies will have us “walking east when we think we’re walking west.” He said “they’ll have us loving our enemies and hating our friends.” To be an independent thinker is to think critically/analytically. Becoming an independent thinker demands the individual to routinely challenge information that is presented so that one’s conclusion is based on the methodical interpretation of the facts. Utilizing this analytical process makes one far less susceptible to being duped by a candidate for political office or the information disseminated by the corporate owned electronic and print media.
RULE # 2
ALL THAT GLITTERS ISN’T GOLD
Simply because a candidate has name recognition; or has been an elected official for a significant period of time; or has experienced success in the field of business or entertainment; or is acceptable to the mainstream (i.e. corporate owned) media or the mainstream electorate doesn’t mean he/she has earned the right to represent you or continue representing you. All candidates regardless of their length of service or their popularity must be thoroughly and properly vetted for the office he/she seeks.
RULE # 3
KNOW THE RULES OF THE “GAME”
Can you vote in the Democratic or Republican primary election if you are registered as an independent voter? Can a convicted felon vote in your state? Can you “write-in” a person’s name if he/she is not on the ballot in a given election? What are the rules governing the absentee ballot process in your state? What are the rules governing those who wish to change their party affiliation? Do you live in a so-called swing/battleground state? A sophisticated voter knows the answers to these questions and many more. Learn the rules of the political process in your state. Laws vary from state to state. Knowing the rules gives one a unique advantage as a voter.
RULE # 4
KNOW THE EXISTING POWER STRUCTURE
Do you know the names of your political representatives at the local, state and national levels? Do you know what their duties are? Do you know the power of their office and how it impacts your community? Do you know the committee(s) they sit on? Do you know if they hold leadership positions in their respective role? The power structure is not as complex as one might think. It is critical for voters to know as much about the political process as one may know about his/her favorite T.V. show or sporting event. Not knowing only diminishes the power of YOU the voter and increases the power elected officials have over an unsuspecting public.
RULE # 5
STUDY EACH CANDIDATE’S TRACK RECORD
Every candidate has a track record. Your job is to find out what that record is as it pertains his/her character, experience, accomplishments, allies, voting record (assuming one exist), etc. What issues has he/she supported? Who has he/she supported in the past? Who is putting money into his/her campaign? Who doesn’t support him/her? And why? Does he/she go along to get along? Has he/she written opinion pieces? Does he/she make promises that are routinely broken? Study the record and political history of all candidates who seek your support for political office.
RULE # 6
BEWARE OF “PROFESSIONAL” POLITICAL HACKS
Political “guns” for hire are part of most elections. Such individuals are “political” mercenaries hired to help a particular candidate or party win a given election. Some operatives are quite clever and difficult to detect. Many do not attempt to hide their role. Many operate as grassroots organizers (i.e. neighborhood campaign workers). Some operate as bloggers. A few even operate as political spies. Professional political hacks are not to be trusted because their loyalty is motivated by financial consideration in the form of actual monetary payment or political patronage to be paid in the event their candidate wins. Professional political hacks are not genuinely concerned about the impact of a candidate’s positions on a given electorate and therefore they should be treated accordingly.
RULE # 7
DON’T BECOME CONSUMED BY IDENTITY POLITICS
While “identity” politics will likely remain a feature in American politics for the foreseeable future, one must be aware of the dangers of such politics. To put it simply, while it is tempting for voters to vote for a candidate based on a shared ethnicity, religion, gender, history, etc. one should not forgo these RULES when deciding on a candidate to support. Recent American political history should remind us that embracing identity politics can have disastrous results.
RULE # 8
BEWARE OF CANDIDATES WITH THE “GIFT OF GAB”
A sophisticated voter is not easily seduced by words. That is because a sophisticated voter has done his/her homework as it pertains to a given candidate and/or political process. This allows the sophisticated voter to hear the message of the speaker/politician and intelligently separate the theatrics from the critical and important elements (assuming there are any). In the end the sophisticated voter knows whether the candidate is the “real deal” or a political hustler out to score points and secure undeserving votes.
RULE # 9
BEWARE OF THE MAINSTREAM POLITICAL PARTIES
America’s two party system is not designed to solve the needs of the downtrodden and poor within our ranks. One might even argue THE TWO PARTY SYSTEM doesn’t do an adequate job addressing the plight of the middle class, students, workers, etc. In reality both parties are structured to serve the needs of the rich (i.e. Wall Street) and the powerful corporate interest that run this country. While it may be prudent in certain elections to be a member of a political party one should not blindly follow or pledge allegiance to either of the two major political parties.
RULE # 10
BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
One must make it his/her business to participate regularly in the electoral process. If one chooses to abstain from a given election then one is basically allowing others to determine the outcome of that election for him/her.