“Low Information Voters and National Populism”

Who Are They? What is it? Surprise!

By Jorge Dante Hernandez Prósperi, 2020

They are known as “LIVs” – Low Information Voters who have been branded and labeled as a collective noun of  provisional Republicans who presently support Trumpism

I posit that such a generalization is unequivocally wrong leading to condescension and dismissing such citizens as if they were uneducated, unsophisticated, antiquated backward dullards lacking common sense and unaware of the tenets of their citizenship. 

Such thinking is a trap and plays into the hands of those who seek to keep America and the world divided by stoking fear, confusion, anxiety and toxicity about others and difference. 

While the leader of Trumpism reflects consistent chaos, incompetence and incoherence, those who voted accordingly deserve more scrutiny and attention. They should be given the opportunity to explain their past and current allegiance.

Another incorrect generalization is that they all live in rural regions, drive pickup trucks with rifles attached to their back windows listening to conservative radio followed by conservative cable  . . . all the while listening to the soundtrack of Deliverance

To harbor predispositions that all who voted for Trump should be defined as cult racists with ties to White Nationalism, Domestic Terrorism, ‘The Fellowship’ and/or fascism is to be blind to the motivations, reasons and critical awareness of a populist movement that has been present since the inception of Democracy. While Trumpism may be uniquely new, National Populism is not.   

I posit that current socio-cultural-political-economic forces are constructing false images and identities regarding Trumpism and National Populism in order to divide and conquer. Divisionism has been weaponized in order to exploit or deny fear for personal political gains. 

It can be argued that the leader of Trumpism is but a figurehead in disguise ready to tumble as soon as its supporters say so. The “base” is in control –  with tight collars and short leashes on Republican Senators, Congressmen and President. They are the tail that wag the power. 

Therefore, my position is that Donald Trump is an enigma with Trumpism an indicator – a socio-political-economic-ideology requiring critical analysis and explained beyond one persona and not beginning in 2016.

The reality is that the same forces that led to Trumpism were brewing around the world regarding the growth of National Populism. Unfortunately, many American citizens were not aware of such a reality – not even its name – its genesis – left alone to morph and boil. 

The following is a reference on 18 examples around the world of countries and leaders that reflect the National Populist evolution and current status. The link does not only show countries and leaders but also voting trends.  

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36130006

The term “Low Information Voters” when used to demean and insult, is a construct that preys on all citizens, on all sides, based on biases, prejudices and narratives. The status of “Low Information” is not owned by only one constituency – particularly in a county that tends to think of itself as the world leader regarding its citizenry being literate, educated and therefore knowledgable. Wish this were true but statistics counter such a fallacy.  American citizenship and literacy are not mutually inclusive.  

Language and Literacy:  https://www.mla.org/content/download/52219/1812312/Infographic-Language-and-Literacy-3.pdf

World Top 20 Project 2019: https://worldtop20.org/worldbesteducationsystem

Yes, there are variables in determining what countries are the most literate and what countries are not. But America has been on a downturn trend for the past 30 years regarding educating its citizenry. The trends are uncontested if we examine local, state and national data. We can and should be doing better from Pre-K through College. A knowledgable, critical thinking and astute citizenry willing to do its homework on citizenship is more difficult to fool.

So is there such a phenomenon as “Low Information Voters?”                                        The answer is an unequivocal YES! 

So who are the LIVs?  The answer is easy . . . let’s just look in the mirror and all around us.      Yes . . . the majority of citizens in America in the 21st Century are LIVs.

I am guilty as charged! . . .  I am a member of the club acknowledging that I can do better regarding critical historical research, updating old info, listening to other voices, allowing others to finish their thoughts without judging, creating some distance from my affinity groups, working on my social constructs that linger and trying to walk more often in those rural, suburban and urban shoes. Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa! 

I can and should do better. Editing myself on this website is yet another ongoing summons towards the authenticity of its veracity.

Each citizen owns part of the LIV Americana mantra – be s/he a Democrat, Democratic Socialist, Traditional Republican, Conservative, Trumpian, Liberal or Independent. We need to do better . . . much better if we want to improve the quality of our lives through our advocacy. 

Partisan ideological titles do not matter and become self-oppressive impositions if – IF we are not willing to do the homework as to the meaning and purpose behind each vote cast. 

Partisanship is irrelevant if we do not pursue knowledge, the veracity of the knowledge and its impact on the quality of life of all citizens . . . without exceptions . . . . and there is the rub . . . ALL citizens . . . not only the ones who sing in our familiar isolated choirs . . . but those across town that we rarely see or think of as neighbors. That trip across townships can be one of the most difficult to take.

The notion that Low Information Voters are just Trump supporters is a fallacy that can be proven statistically – not only in America but via socio-cultural-political-voting trends across the world . . . in the 21st century . . . right now! 

Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin (two of the foremost experts on fascism and the rise of national populism), published in 2018 National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy. 

The book is a lucid and deeply researched study on the topic that I encourage all to read who believe that Trumpism is a recent 2016 manifestation supported by only a specific segment of the population defined in simplistic terms as . . .    

“people who feel excluded, alienated from mainstream politics, and increasingly hostile towards minorities, immigrants and neo-liberal economics. This radical turn we are told, is a last howl of rage from an aging electorate on the verge of extinction. Their leaders are fascistic and their politics anti-democratic; their existence a side-show to liberal democracy. But this version of events and characterizations, as Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin claim, could not be further from the truth.”

One significant value of the study is the depth and breadth of its international spectrum rather than focusing only on America and Trumpism. The authors in the book, and during think-tank conferences, poignantly point to complex international socio-cultural-political-ideological movements, shifts, voting trends and leadership. 

They caution not to believe that the tenets of Trumpism are isolated to the United States, that it has reached a ceiling of volatility or to only question whether Social Democracy can simply return to a electoral competitiveness within the traditional political parties. 

Thinking that National Populism was started when Trump rode the escalator and is maintained by Donald Trump through his political genius may be great for the Trump campaign and die-hard supporters in 2020, but could not be further from the truth and erroneous thinking. 

The two conference presentation links that follow are lengthy due to plethora of data and sub-referencing but highly informative regarding the complex factors that we tend to overlook or just don’t know. These are the kind of critical thinking processes that take us beyond quick hit tweets, Cable pundits and Facebook generalities. 

Are we willing to take – make the necessary time to become informed as citizens? Such presentations are worthy of our scrutiny because they provide critical in-depth knowledge and international data. Both links also provide language and facts that we can refer to upon visiting our personal table of discourse with others in order to examine, even it it means with discomfort, our socio-cultural-political-financial existence in real time and space. 

IIEA – Institution of International and European Affairs Sharing Ideas Shaping Policy 2018:

UBS International Center In Economics in Society 2018:

Another trap and obsession regarding not understanding National Populism, is Liberals continuing to debate, “What happened in 2016?” looking at isolated short term factors. In other words, dealing with the strategies of campaigns, the Russian attacks on social media, outcomes of debates, poll numbers, scandal after scandal, focusing on the leaders within the movements resulting in viewing the veneer of outcomes but not examining what was fermenting under the veneer. 

In contrast, a case can be made that National Populism is rooted in deep long term currents that will remain permanent on the political landscape as a powerful force for many years to come. One reason being because it has been present for many years. 

This proven theory is in conflict with current notions that Trumpism and such movements are only about “generational replacement and shifts.”  The Pavlovian trap is thatLiberals just need to wait in order to regain or inherit stability and tranquility. 

To play this waiting game is fool hardy – as much as it was in the 2000s – not paying attention while  gerrymandering was being constructed throughout America. Citizens didn’t even know the meaning of the term . . . not aware of its engineering – neither did many local and national Democrats, Independents, conservatives and/or liberal political leaders. Again, the titles are not important – but rather the ideological and political outcomes and how they connected with the populous. A megaphone was being designed for those who felt that they were not being heard.   

A mistaken simple definition and explanation is to define Trumpism as a movement about essentially angry old white men who are backlashing against the system and are soon to be replaced by more ethnically culturally diverse populations as university rates of higher education expand and therefore the potential over the long term for Popular Nationalism will diminish. This is a seductive argument particularly on the Liberal left because it implies that we don’t need to do anything about the grievances – that this in effect is about a waiting game and that it is essentially about a generational change.”

This is not only a major error by Liberals but also by the Republican Party looking at the GOP through nearsighted lenses. The challenge to move beyond party and not only focus on recent events is difficult for us as Americans because we are not used to dealing with the complexity – the foreignness of international news, not comparing and contrasting with historical references, but typically paying attention to breaking news of some catastrophe (Coronavirus), Wall Street in a panic or of mod-cultural significance – “Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I” … tell you that? (Vic Mensa) . . . hip-hopping along . . . 

We tend to want news in morsels of Americana, quick hits, sprinkled with some sensationalism and with some good old fashion Ayn Rand self-serving-benefits – otherwise, why even listen? Out of sight is out of mind. Immediacy tends to rule our pursuit of knowledge and its veracity.

Eatwell and Goodwin provide a different perspective regarding the quick simplistic perspective, 

“If we look at the socio-cultural demographics of who is voting for these movements we begin to discover why that argument is woefully inadequate. If you look at most democracies Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the US, you have to often face the reality that these movements are typically the strongest among the under 40s if not the under 50s.  In the US, 41% of white millennials voted for Donald Trump and 53% of white women, and 1 in 3 Latinas/os.”

The same holds true throughout the world. It’s pointed out that these movements are not current but were simmering before the world was using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Simplistic perspectives don’t explain why countries that have not faced financial turbulence as America did in 2008, are moving towards National Populism. There are some who argue that National Populism has been present as long as Democracy. This should awaken our attention.

The challenge for each of us as citizens is not to fall into the habit of believing that all Liberal ideas, issues and policies are significantly more important and should be prioritized. The same holds true for Conservatives and Independents. A better process is to identify and critically define National Populism as to its history and its role in the 21st Century. This means getting into the weeds with those who provide momentum for the movement and its followers. 

The temptation to define the Populous Movement simplistically asbeing a white working class backlash among older voters is not only incorrect but misleading. Younger voters connect with National Populism who are feeling both economically and culturally insecure and increasingly left behind. Millennials, often thought to be Liberal Moderates, increasingly find a space among National Populism.  

So what are some cautions and responses to National Populism replacing National Democracy:

  • Populists have legitimate issues with their concerns being ignored. There is growing distrust that blue collar middle class workers are not being represented and dismissed in the corridors of power. Candidates must begin to address such a constituency from zip code to zip code without exceptions and address their issues consistently rather than every two or four years. The auto-worker, miner, farmer, minimum wage employee feels voiceless and invisible. Frustration, broken promises and anxiety about their future and the quality of life for themselves and family places their backs against the wall – ready to listen to alternatives – be the promises truncated, contrived or not.  
  • Increasingly non-graduates and working class people feel disenfranchised and marginalized distrustful of those in power. Working class issues must be articulated in the language used by those most impacted with specific local solutions rather than subjective global/national idealism, generalizations and charlatanism. People who voted for Trump in good faith have begun to realize with disappointment that what was promised was yet another Ponzi scheme leaving chaos behind. Candidates in 2020 have yet another opportunity to genuinely address issues in local town meetings – constituencies anxiously waiting for new political strategies that connect and will result in fruition of legislation being passed that reflect their personal concerns with Healthcare, Employment, Minimum Wage, Environment, Education, Student Loans, Housing and mature, competent, responsible and credible leadership
  • The people in power throughout the world tend to be billionaires, millionaires, lawyers, representatives with MAs or PhDs, with few blue collar workers in positions of power. Party leaders must begin to promote representation and advocacy at root levels advocating and promoting community organizers and non-profit leaders who are working with those most in need of representation and assistance. 
  • Rural America must begin to be recognized and embraced by urban and suburban citizenry – the same as urban America struggles to be validated and respected. Leaders in the 21st Century must have a vision, mission and guiding principles that speaks to ALL Americans with dignity, civility, decency, compassion, awareness and respect for differences in life-styles, family traditions, regional history and identity and educational backgrounds that are viewed through the lenses of the Constitution, Democracy, Bill of Rights, Rule of Law and Justice. 
  • The elephant in the room in most nations in 2020 is the need for IMMIGRATION REFORM – one of the major reasons for the rise of National Populism. One problem is that immigrants, immigration and migrations have been weaponized and used to create fear and divisions. It is used as a campaign rallying point rather than to genuinely seek solutions. To vilify immigrants and stoking fear is a political ploy that leads to horrific consequences for immigrants and debilitates the citizens who become part of the legacy of dehumanization. History is clear about such lessons as the truth is a stubborn pillar. We may not agree on imprisoning families, separating children from their families and caging them, but this is who we are in 2020 and we need to own its vileness. Each American citizen needs to step up and voice such concerns on behalf of those who remain imprisoned, voiceless and invisible. 
  • One of the key questions posed by Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin . . . As global citizens . . . as Americans living in the 21st Century is . . . what are we willing to concede?

Concessions based on collaborations among all constituencies will need to be made regarding the economic disparity between the 5 percent of the most wealthy compared to the 95 percent of the population of most countries. This is not only a Bernie Sanders talking point but a reality across all nations and societies. The disparity will not just dissolve by itself. Heavy duty changing of minds, policies, referendums and heroic leadership by leaders of global markets will need to play a significant role collaborating beyond market shares and shareholders. This will require a dramatic shift for true change to take place. 

The upper-middle, middle-middle and lower-middle classes are exponentially losing ground on economic and quality of life opportunities of worth. These are the constituencies that used to be counted on to support Liberal, Independent and Progressive Democratic Populism. 

To remain “Low Information Voters – Citizens” is to play into the hands of charlatans who by  design rule through fear, divisiveness, political expediency and opportunism creating the worst oppression of all  . . . self-oppression. 

The health of our national state of being – the belief in our Constitution, Democracy, Bill of Rights, Rule of Law and Justice is what is at stake regarding how we as citizens become aware and to what degree we dedicate quality time, effort and discourse to define who we are as Americans . . . as a people in the 21st Century and then act as we believe with courage.