Rick Shenkman and The Truth About the American Voter

rick%20shenkman.jpgAmerican democracy – a staple of life in the United States that we all know too well…or do we?

I can recall my senior year of high school, right around the 2004 presidential election. Tempers were flaring up and teachers were antsy to know what we (potential) voters thought about the presumptive candidates. Sadly, but surely, I can distinctively remember a good friend’s sole reason to vote for our current president, George W. Bush. “Why not? He’s a cute old man.” Sure. Because we’re all looking for that handsome lad to lead us to victory.

Not to worry, though. If the aforementioned statement does not sit well with your boiling American blood, investigative reporter, George Mason University historian, and New York Times best-selling author Rick Shenkman gives some insight as to why we proud Americans vote the way we do. His latest book, entitled “Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter” is his sixth publication in the line of political/historical works.

Shenkman says that politicians are counting on Americans to depend on those 30-second infomercials to make their decisions. There is a reason why countless dollars are poured into advertising - political strategists want to take advantage of our emotions. Senkman also explores the myths and misconceptions of some of our presidents from JFK to Jimmy Carter.

Shenkman sums up the way politics and the American people mingle, as if they were strolling past the White House, hand in hand:

“It would be stupid to say that the American people are stupid—as stupid as saying the American people are smart. It is impossible to generalize—and silly. But our politics are often stupid. And there are times when no other word, harsh as it is, seems to capture the essence of the turn politics has taken in recent decades.”

Still not convinced on Rick’s thoughts? Check out these statistics that are featured in his book:

--Only 2 in 5 voters can name the three branches of the federal government.

--Nearly half (49%) of Americans think the president has the authority to suspend the Constitution.

--Only 1 in 7 can find Iraq on a map.

--A majority (70%) continued to believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, even after the 9/11 Commission reported that the claim was groundless.

--Only 1 in 5 know that there are 100 federal senators.

--Only one-fifth of Americans between ages 18-34 bother to keep up with current events.

Pretty shocking numbers, but in the midst of his explanations as to why the American voter continues to disappoint, Shenkman offers hope (and even a plan) for how voters can improve their intelligence. Check out Rick Shenkman's book, "Just How Stupid Are We?"  published by Basic Books. And here's a link to Shenkman's appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

- John Asante