Many conservative commentators, wishing to explain away Mitt Romney’s heartbreaking loss in 2012, have often referred to the “low information voter” as the amorphous blob of a demographic which propelled Barack Obama to victory. Low information voters (or “LIVs”) are, loosely speaking, a growing portion of the electorate which shows little interest in the politics or policies of the day, but whose members have nonetheless found occasion to peel themselves away from their Apple TV and XBox to vote for the Democrat candidate du jour. As of late these candidates, whom our friends on the left foist upon the pop-culturally literate, tend to be part of the “history-making firsts” club: First black president, first female governor, first transgendered Hispanic selectman in Vermont. The list goes on, and of course bleeds into presidential appointments as well. Consider the Los Angeles Times’ lede on the evening of October 8, 2013 regarding the nomination of Janet Yellen to the position of Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman:
WASHINGTON — President Obama will nominate Janet L. Yellen to be the next head of the Federal Reserve, the White House said Tuesday. The historic appointment, if confirmed, would make the former UC Berkeley economist the first woman to lead the world’s most powerful central bank.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with reporting on historical firsts. In the case of the LA Times piece, however, the reader has to wade through half of the article to get to anything relevant about Dr. Yellen’s views on macroeconomics.
I’m not sure if it’s wise to chalk up the opposition’s victories to stupid voters. In fact, several other outlets have written that this analysis undercuts a necessary introspection on the part of the Republican Party to confront its difficulties with connecting its message to younger, multi-ethnic voters.
This situation is sort of like referring to your ex-girlfriend (or boyfriend) as “crazy.” She may, in fact, have been crazy. But don’t forget: you still chose to date her, so what does that say about you? While this is not a personal advice column, I–as one of the older writers to tether his musings on The College Conservative’s webpage–will offer my Dutch uncle’s advice that when dating, you always know what you’re getting into.
That being said, the current administration and its various political arms has shrewdly identified this vast swath of voters. Its members, including the President, speak in terms that are relevant to the LIV and seek out venues in which they know the LIV crowd will pay attention, like Twitter or the Jon Stewart Show. Here, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius basically told those now required to spend money on the fee (or tax) associated with not having health insurance to suck it up: the fee (it’s really a tax, just another clever use of words by this crowd) is less than their monthly cell phone or cable bills. Again: analogize something serious to the lowest common denominator’s understanding of the world.
President Obama even analogized his contentious relationship with the House Republican caucus over the government shutdown as being similar to the relationship we, the unwashed masses, have with the banks who hold the mortgages on our homes. “Think about it this way,” our commander-in-chief remarked at an October 8, 2013 press conference, “The American people do not get to demand a ransom for doing their jobs. You don’t get a chance to call your bank and say I’m not going to pay my mortgage this month unless you throw in a new car and an Xbox.” If it were only that simple, Mr. President, to bully our banks in order to get an XBox. Suddenly, millions of teenagers (and future LIVs) would be keenly interested in personal finance.
In an earlier column I wrote that the conservative moment needs to make a concerted effort to be a presence in the school system, both in practice and in curricula development. The low information voter phenomenon, if it is indeed real, is a consequence of a broken public school system in which young adults who are not conversant with the basic policy issues of the day, let alone the tree-top unbiased view of American history, are dumped into the electoral process. These voters know more about the American Idol electoral process than they do about the Electoral College.
For this, our nation is far worse off.