Shenkman’s View on American Voters
“Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter,” by Rick Shenkman is a book with an eye opening experience. It was one of the best-selling books on the market in 2008 for a different look into the political issues. By Shenkman asking such a forward provoking question, it automatically catches the reader’s attention. It has you go through an immense variety of approaches and opinions. According to Shenkman, Democrats and Republicans point fingers on who’s to blame for the 2008 presidential elections. Most people think it all had to do with the “bad Bush years” in administration, but Shenkman is convinced that it is “too easy to blame our mess on Mr. Bush” (Shenkman xi). Shenkman is questioning the American voter directly; he believes that we The People should be questioned for the root of the problem. Shenkman’s explains that he has five characteristics of stupidity, but the most important are; ignorance, negligence, and how the American voter depends on myths. (Shenkman 14).
Shenkman’s first main point and argument is the American voters’ ignorance. What made Shenkman question the American voters ignorance in the first place was the attack on September 11, 2001. Astonishingly polls taken proved that people really didn’t know what happened on 9/11. In fact “only one in seven Americans could find Iraq on the map (Shenkman 141). People often mistake 9/11, Sudan Hussein, al Qaeda, and the Iraq war to be tied in together. PIPA polls taken in as late as 2004 stated that people linked Iraq and 9/11 and a “persistent 57 percent believed that Saddam Hussein was helping al Qaeda at the time we were attacked” (Shenkman 4). He is ultimately saying that the American people are stubborn, and believed what they wanted even after being confirmed otherwise. The 9/11 Commission directly stated in 2004 that Saddam had not supported al Qaeda (Shenkman 4). Another point that Shenkman stated was clear ignorance on the issue in Iraq and their weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Experts confirmed that during the invasion of Iraq the United States did not uncover any WMD (Shenkman 5). Shenkman believes that after 9/11 the voters should have taken action as opposed to just taking things lightly with accepting and settling what they were told. One would argue that we didn’t take things lightly because we are all for the war in Iraq but like Shenkman states most of the American society doesn’t even know why we are at war in the first place.
Since young people in this day are less informed about politics, Shenkman states that maybe “we should consider whether we even want them to vote” (28). He is proposing that although we have a constitutional right at the age of 18 to legally vote, due to ignorance in the majority of new voters we are unfit to cast a vote. One of Shenkman’s suggestions was to have freshman students in college take a weekly quiz on current events. This apparently worked for his class when he taught Journalism in the Washington D.C. area. He learned that surprisingly even students who were in graduate school in the nation’s capital were not as interested in the news as Shenkman thought they’d be (30).
Where does this ignorance come from? Shenkman would argue that it comes from negligence from today’s American voter. He believes the people are being less informed and “dumbed down” generation after generation. Studies have proven that young Americans today have been less informed compared to generations before. The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum study found that 22 percent of Americans can name all the five famous cartoon characters in the Simpson family, yet only 1 in 1,000 people can name all five First Amendments (Shenkman 13). One out of thousand people! That accounts to less than one percent. Television and Internet have become the normal go to source for news, even though the majority of people watch television and browse the internet mostly for...
Cited: Bartls, Larry M. . "The Irrational Electorate." Wilson Quarterly.1-4. Print.
Shenkman, Rick. Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter.
New York: Basic Books, 2008. 242.
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