The Wisdom of the Electorate

The first rule to understanding elections is the wisdom of the electorate.  The electorate is always right.  That is why democracy works.  The population in aggregate is far wiser than any elite few.  Political systems have evolved in a trial-and-error process exactly for this reason.  Think of the electorate as cumulative knowledge wired in series.  The electorate always makes the wisest choice, based on known information at the time, when the voting process aggregates their knowledge.  You can put a genius in a knowledge test against a large group of random people, and if that group has a system for answering questions, they will beat the genius every time.  Their collective knowledge will swamp his/her genius.  The TV show Who Want’s to Be a Millionaire offered contestants lifelines for help with questions.  When contestants appealed to the aggregate knowledge of the audience for help, the audience always got the answer correct.  When the contestant appealed to an individual for help, they constantly got the wrong answer.  The aggregate wisdom of the electorate is constantly dismissed by the political system, but only at their peril for losing elections.

Conventional wisdom has it backward.  Whichever way an election turns, the losing candidate, pundits, political operatives, and the unbiased media initially resort to blaming the outcome on “low information” voters.  Obviously, in the losing candidates and their handlers view, if the voters were more educated and wiser, they would have elected him or her.  It is the false belief that targeting the “low information” voter is key to winning elections that drives an election season and the omnipresent cookie-cutter ads.  It is rare to view a political ad that addresses the serious issues that voters most care about; the issues that most affect their lives.  Paid political consultants deluge voters with ads dumbed down to the lowest perceived common denominator.  There is a template for political advertising.  Start with a grainy, unflattering image of the opponent.  Add an irritating voiceover narrator.  Then hit the viewer with a quick litany of side-issue buzz words with the intent to rile the voter from their couch stupor and propel them angrily into the voting booth to elect the candidate who will prevent the Iranian, Russian, Chinese, socialist, free health care, climate destroying, tax spending, tax cutting, big government, return to back-alley abortions, debt-creating, gun-loving. wall building, immigrant, heartless, corrupt, fascist from gaining power and ruining America forever once and for all.

Political advertising is a big business that funnels massive amounts of campaign contributions through the political system and into the pockets of consultants and operatives.  Cost effective returns do not enter the political advertising business because there is no serious reflection on understanding the desires of the electorate.  The political game pays well whether you win or lose.  There is always another election.  Metastasized federal government and the rewards it offers cronies and constituents is what drives ever-expanding sums of money into politics.  The solution to campaign finance reform is returning government to its constitutional responsibilities.   

Voters want their lives to improve.  They will elect candidates who best promise to create conditions that improve their lives and the lives of future generations.  The defining issues of any election are economic growth and the quest for peaceful existence in the global community. 

Economic growth improves the standard of living for current and future generations.  It is axiomatic that economic growth creates progress that advances mankind, but this is generally either ignored or not understood.  America is a rich country and there is a lazy assumption that America will alway be a rich country.  It is our free market foundation based on individual liberty that paves the way for economic growth, wealth, and progress.  As history has shown, that foundation is tenuous and easily squandered.

The electorate will always rally to national defense when there is a genuine threat.  Our serial, perpetual MidEast wars cannot be seen in this light.  They are a continuous source of big money for Eisenhower’s warning of the military industrial complex.  With the Fed driving interest rates to the zero bound, Congress could fund them without a dire threat to the budget.  Our MidEast wars are more a jobs and budget outlay program than effort at national defense–with disastrous long-term consequences.   With interest rates rising, that bill will come due and the ability to continue to fund them will compete with all the other budget demands.  The electorate searching for politicians to end our useless wars has voted out respective political parties in sequential presidential and congressional elections.  When it comes to our wars, there is no difference between the Republican and Democrat party.  The wars continue unabated and growing regardless of who controls executive or congressional power.  For some insane reason, there is now a drumbeat to expand regional MidEast conflicts into conflicts with Russia and China.

The idea that media, celebrities, or powerful individuals influence elections is another popular misconception.  This doesn’t prevent those with a public voice from embarrassingly entering the political fray.  Try influencing your spouse or have your spouse influence your voting decision.  You will politely engage them to keep peace, but will vote exactly as you want when you enter the voting booth.  The media has far, far less influence on your voting decision than friends, family, or a spouse–whose influence is already naturally limited.

There is no better illustration of these electoral concepts than Trump’s election.  Trump was the loudest Republican candidate in the primaries to vocally oppose our wars.  He alluded to a return to stable money by speaking favorably of the gold standard.  He promised to reduce big government, regulation, and taxes and return power to the individual.  Both political parties organized their power structures to oppose him.  He had the megaphone of the mainstream media uniformly aligned against him, and they withheld no punches in warning the electorate of his deficiency to govern.  The polls stated that he had no chance to win.  His candidacy was a punchline.  History has rarely seen a bigger political underdog.  Yet, the wisdom of the electorate ignored the background noise and handily elected a political neophyte reality star to the highest office in the land.

The political class should learn by listening to the electorate.  Instead, they degrade the electorate as deplorables, too stupid to follow the elite’s political instruction.  The upcoming midterm election will offer another lesson in the wisdom of the electorate.  Both parties should learn from the electorate and understand their desires.  Voters will reward those politicians wise enough to understand and respect the electorate’s wishes.

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