Yes, yes, I know it's fashionable these days to point out how the Republican Party is doing all it can to keep people from voting. And by "people" I mean minorities, the poor and students.
And yes, yes, I know the GOP insists it just isn't true, the same as they insist their War on Women isn't true despite all the laws they keep pushing against equal pay for women and closing women's health clinics. So, all those faux "voter ID" laws Republicans try to cram through, they're not to keep anyone away from the polls, they're just to make sure that those who show up to vote can prove they exist. And Chris Christie vetoing an Automatic Registration bill in New Jersey, that wasn't about making it more difficult to vote, nor about pandering to the GOP base when running for president, that was only about not wanting to "risk integrity and orderly administration."
Because nothing says integrity and orderly administration like "New Jersey." And after all, being automatically registered is so much more disorderly than filling out forms and then needing to get them filed, accurately. (Though in fairness, if you had a 30 percent approval rating in your state, wouldn't you try to keep people from voting, too...?)
But sometimes, when you're so feverishly driven in your goals and frightened of the world around you, you just can't help yourself and the truth comes out. I don't mean it comes out in general, suggestive hints, but rather in actual, specific exact words that state precisely what you're thinking behind the painted-on smile.
Amid the Republican primary campaign and demonstrably false statements made whether by Donald Trump talking about his personal majesty and Mexicans, Carly Fiorina talking about seeing a video that doesn't exist, Ben Carson talking about vaccines and how the Affordable Care Act is like slavery and that the president might declare martial law to cancel the 2016 elections, Ted Cruz talking about how the Iran nuclear deal lets Iranians inspect themselves or...well, talking about much of what he doesn't like, or fill in the blank about the rest of the field, I was reminded of how not long ago the Fox News show Outnumbered was discussing young people and voting.
"Do we want them to vote if they don't know the issues?" host Harris Faulkner asked.
Well, okay, that's an easy one. Even for people who didn't take Civics 101 in the eighth grade. Hands anyone? Who wants to take that one? Right, the answer is "Yes! No question at all," because that's the right of every American citizen, and it's what our ancestors fought and died for. It's even the very principle our country was founded on. No taxation without representation. Representation! The simple, basic right to vote. Period. There are no conditions on voting. No racist poll taxes anymore to keep poor blacks from voting. You're an American citizen? Great, here's your ballot, exercise your right. My country 'tis of thee. Sweet land, indeed. Bingo, that's the answer, you got it. "Yes." You pass.
And how did Outnumbered do on "Fox News"? How did they answer the question -- "Do we want them to vote if they don't know the issues?
"No!" cried out Lisa Kennedy Montgomery. "You absolutely don't!"
Oh, dear God. Seriously. And she said this out loud. You just wonder if Ms. Kennedy Montgomery is aware that people can hear her? This might be the thing Republicans like to say in quiet, when only the 3 percent can hear, but not on national television. But there you have it. Nothing subtle and interpretative about it. "No! You absolutely don't." The Republican Party mantra. Just Say No to Voting.
And then Mr. Faulkner felt compelled to chime back in. "Do you really want to motivate them to vote and be ignorant at the polls?"
Yes. You really do. Really. Among other things, forgetting even that you want them to be motivated to vote because, at its most core and basic and patriotic level, you want people exercising their Constitutional rights, and forgetting too that you want people participating in elections by voting because it makes them invested in their country -- but you really do want to motivate people to vote because, if you actually have "motivated them to vote," what that generally means is that it is this very motivation that helps inform them about the issues.
But here's the thing.
I know that these two fine hosts are outraged about ignorant people voting. Hey, I'm not crazy about it when I see people who can't identify what the Supreme Court is and think it's where they play the U.S. Tennis Championship and know that they're going into a voting booth -- but I like that they want to participate. But what Mr. Faulkner and Ms. Kennedy Montgomery are missing is that it's to their far-right benefit that people vote who are ignorant of the issues.
When people who are ignorant about the issues vote, that's how you get people who will never see $300,000 in their lifetime voting against the supposed "death tax" to protect the $3 million inheritance they are sure is coming their way.
That's how you get women who use birth control voting to support officials proposing trans-vaginal probes. That's how you get people who are struggling to pay their mortgages voting to support protection of too-big-to-fail financial institutions. That's how you get people who insist all elected officials in government are corrupt, and vote against campaign finance laws.
That's how you get blue collar workers who say they hate The Man and Big Business voting against union protection of workers. That's how you get people who say they're against welfare for the needy happily voting for massive welfare payouts to the massive oil, pharmaceutical and banking industries. That's how you get people voting against their personal health care, and against protection of the environment and against paying for better schools for their children and building safer bridges. And on and on...
For over half a century, the Republican Party has convinced people to vote against their self-interest. And you only do that when you have voters who are ignorant of the issues.
And the hosts on Fox News are against this?? Fox News should kiss the ground daily that people ignorant of the issues are allowed to vote.
But...well, here's the even bigger thing.
What Lisa Kennedy Montgomery and Harris Faulkner failed to realize is that if their hoped-for dream of people ignorant of the issues not being allowed to vote ever came to pass...
...then they are advocating that their very own viewers of Fox News shouldn't be allowed to vote.
Which would pretty much guarantee the collapse of the Republican Party.
To be clear, this isn't my own snidely-subjective, hyperbolic statement. This was the finding of a research study (written about here in Forbes magazine, hardly the bastion of liberal thought) taken three years ago by Farleigh Dickinson University, which demonstrated that people who watched Fox News were the least informed of all those who watched media.
And by "least informed," we mean ignorant of the issues.
Just to be clear.
In fact, though, it's actually even worse than that. Wait, how is that possible you ask? It's because the poll showed that Fox News viewers were actually less informed than -- are you ready? -- people who don't watch news at all.
"Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News," said Dan Cassino, a political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson. "Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don't watch any news at all."
So, if hosts at Fox News truly don't want people who are ignorant of the issues to vote -- they might as well turn off the electricity, put away the cameras, and shut up shop. And there's one other thing they should do. And that's pay heed to the famous old bromide: be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about this or many other matters both large and tidbit small, see Elisberg Industries.