Our latest question has to do with being an informed voter. Question #9 is...
An informed electorate is important in sustaining a democracy. We’ve
just completed a presidential and vice-presidential debate, and will see
two more presidential debates. I’ve just read some factchecking from
the vice-presidential debate which suggested that accuracy was a bit
scarce. What specific recommendations would you make to individual
voters as to how they can become informed voters? Feel free to list
and/or link to resources.
How does a voter cut through the baloney and get to the facts? In some ways this is easier than ever. No longer are we restricted to the three major stations (ABC, NBC and CBS), our local paper and the radio that all approached the news with a left leaning worldview. Now we have a dizzying array of news sources. Starting with conservative talk radio and then exploding with the internet a voter can get a myriad of opinions. Candidates tweet, Facebook, blog, Youtube as fast as they can. Any comment by a candidate is immediately rebutted by their opponent. The "news" comes fast and furious, often without being confirmed or vetted. This gives us the opposite problem where we now have so much information that it can be nearly impossible to sort through it. So what to do?
First I think we need to admit that we all have biases and second that we all are being marketed to, even by our favorite candidates. Elections now more than ever are about marketing, a candidate selling him or her self to the voters. The old saying "How do you know when a politician is lying to you? His lips are moving" has never been more true.
I personally stay away from sources like Jon Stewart, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc. Those individuals are entertainers and have no issue with exaggeration, hyperbole and demagoguery. Beck especially is someone that I think is completely untrustworthy and more than a little mentally unstable. I try to read thoughtful sources on both sides.
My main "liberal" sources are the Huffington Post, the New York Times and most media reports that come out of the AP and CNN. I also listen daily for about 40 minutes to Morning Edition and All Things Considered on NPR. While NPR is unquestionably liberal in every sense, it is also thoughtful and
My conservative sources are National Review and the Wall Street Journal opinion page. Unlike the stereotype that people often try to paint me with I do not watch Fox News and in fact do not even have cable or satellite TV. I also read a fair number of blogs and follow people on Twitter that often link to good news stories. Finally, I also read the papers from several think tanks, primarily the Libertarian CATO Institute and the more traditional conservative Heritage Foundation.
The most important piece of advice? Be informed and be open minded. Don't wall yourself off. Know what other people are saying even if you disagree.