Monday, May 21, 2012

Uninformed People Make Uninformed Decisions

Who in their right mind would really want a convicted criminal who falsely claimed to have a college education, lied about his parents, and made up a resume that included hundreds of false claims such as excelling in sports and being an American hero? Even worse, if you could vote for such a person knowing the above bad traits, would you still consider voting for him when you learned he was in prison for threatening his fellow citizens? As I say, I doubt anyone in their right mind would seriously consider having such a person as the leader of the free world and commander-in-chief of our nation’s military.

Recently, the news media made a big to-do over the fact that Russell Judd, a federal inmate, polled 41% in the Democratic primary of West Virginia. The story seemed to imply such a result in that primary was a reflection on President Obama. Unfortunately, it says more about the voters in West Virginia than it does the President.

The lesson to be learned here is that when voters do not pay attention and vote without being well informed, it is possible to make extremely bad choices. I will concede that usually the choices are not bad enough to elect the sort of fellow who ran against Obama in West Virginia, but there are cases where a result almost as bad has occurred. Here in Texas, for example, the electorate selected a person for the Texas Supreme Court who had been involved in a murder plot and who was later discovered to have been nothing more than a criminal.

Unfortunately, the sin of voting while not well informed and failure to pay attention is not limited to the average voter. Members of our own Texas Legislature can, and have, been guilty of equal gullibility or worse. I recall in the 60's a legislative upset which gained quite a bit of publicity throughout the media.

It has always been customary--ever since there has been a state legislature--for members of the House and Senate to pass congratulatory resolutions as a matter of everyday business. This process allows the Legislature to commend or recognize citizens who generally have done good things. Unfortunately, the practice is so common as a part of the daily routine of the Legislature that little attention is paid to the substance of the text and approval is given generally without debate or serious inquiry as to the content of each resolution. In the early 60's, in order to bring focus to the procedure, a legislator from Waco, who was a former district attorney from McLennan County, introduced a resolution commending a gentleman for his efforts at population control. After the resolution had been passed unanimously, signed by the speaker and clerk of the House, it was then revealed to the public that the person being congratulated for his efforts at population control by the House of Representatives of Texas was none other than the Boston Strangler.

The lesson to be learned is almost as simple as legal advice given by lawyers every day to clients who enter into contracts to purchase insurance or who deal with titles to property: Read what you sign. Read what you subscribe to as a part of your belief or statement of fact. The advice is valid, certainly for the voting public.

It takes more than watching the evening news one or two evenings a week. It takes even more than reading regular periodicals such as national magazines or the daily newspaper. To be a good citizen and cast a meaningful vote, one needs to study the day-to-day activities of our government, and to understand the rules of the process and how government works at every level, and then do a close examination of what can be learned of each candidate in order to determine whether or not that candidate is qualified to serve in the office. But more importantly, you need to know whether or not that candidate, if elected, has interests aligned with your own.

All of this is said to make the point that if you wouldn’t vote for a phony, or a criminal convict, then why would you vote for a person who shared little in common with you? or catered to billionaires? or marched to the drum beat of the well-monied special interests?  


  1. It is my privilege to edit Sen. Parker's blog, and one of the perks is choosing illustrations. When I ran across the one for ''bee informed'' I couldn't resist. One of the hallmarks of his legislative fame was as a 'killer bee' -- which forever made the senator one of the heroes of Texas lawmaking, and is as good a story as legends are made of... and actually it illustrates the importance of what he is saying here. My own comment would be that, these days, perhaps more than ever before, it takes not only informed but courageous people to elect courageous leaders. We could use a few more killer bees all the way around.

  2. p.s. Gov. Hobby's recollections are worth a read, for those who are mystified re the reference to the Tx Senate Killer Bees or just too lazy to google:

  3. Remember the 2010 South Carolina senate race? ((shudder))


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