Editor’s note: From the Dispatches archive — this article about people not being reached first posted on October 2, 2013:
On list of things that astound me are the difficult tasks that man can accomplish, such as building a skyscraper, putting satellites in orbit, and sending a probe to mars. Those things are difficult yet possible. I’ll tell you what’s not difficult: reaching voters. Have you seen the new bypass bridge that was built alongside the Hoover Dam? That’s hard. Bringing good information to uninformed citizens isn’t.
Near the top of the list of things that astonish me is the fact that many, if not most Republicans and conservatives continue to fail at accomplishing their number one job: moving public opinion. I once suggested to a non-political public relations professional that the GOP doesn’t understand mass communications. Her answer was to one-up me: the GOP doesn’t understand communications.
Here’s a quote from a long-dead socialist that at least understood the information war:
The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.
Most of the political right is stuck in delusion. That’s the only answer I can come up with as to why they don’t get serious about outreach — about winning the politically lost and working in a way so there are fewer low information voters.
No one argues that the political left, and actually the radical left, dominates all of the major societal institutions that control the flow of information: The K-12 and higher education arena, the old but dominate media, and pop culture. Despite that near monopoly, the well-funded labor unions and non-profit institutions do their part in the communications effort as well since they get what James Madison did and what evidently conservatives don’t:
Public opinion sets bounds to every government, and is the real sovereign in every free one.
Yes, I concede the political right dominates talk radio. Great. I’m sure a lot of people are converted through that vehicle. But the 2008 and 2012 elections should prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that talk radio has its limits. And don’t forget the two elections before that were only won by a Republican with a one-state margin. Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 were the only thing standing between us and Al Gore and John Kerry.
Yes, there are countless organizations on the political right that disseminate the truth about all kinds of issues. I’d argue that besides the pro-life and pro-Second Amendment groups who have made good progress, the efforts of the rest leave a lot of ground for improvement.
Some of my favorite thinkers and writers are easily found at great websites like National Review Online and Townhall.com. Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute got ya covered if you want to learn about most of the federal and state issues. But, my friends, all those I just mentioned mostly serve as resources for those already on our side. My valuing them makes little difference because their audiences are relatively small.
I’m puzzled by the “build it and they will come” approach to commentary and studies published on the web by conservatives. They think posting is enough. Unfortunately the most important audience doesn’t come. The label “low information voter” dominated the post-election coverage last year. There’s never been so much information available, yet there are also record numbers of people who haven’t the slightest clue about what’s been going wrong or how it can be fixed.
I’ve only just begun this discussion. Let’s continue this tomorrow.
Image credit: Martin-D / Wikipedia.