Becoming An “Enlightened” Citizen

Becoming An “Enlightened” Citizen
Paulette Brown-Hinds, PHD

Paulette Brown-Hinds, PHD

Election season is here and it’s time to research and prepare to vote, if you haven’t voted by mail already.

We will be bombarded by campaign mailers, television commercials, and yes, even newspaper editorials. All hoping to convince us to vote a specific way. When our landlines ring – which they rarely do these days, nine times out of ten they will be robocalls…recorded messages touting the merits of one candidate or initiative. I’ve never understood the effectiveness of those calls. I know as soon as I hear an automated message I hang-up. Actually these days I don’t even answer the house phone. Honestly, I can’t even remember the number, and don’t know if we actually have an actual landline phone.

There will be misleading information. Lies. Half-truths. And obfuscation of facts. For example, an independent group hoping to sway your vote in the close race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction for Tom Torlakson over Marshall Tuck, calls Tuck’s education reform supporters “Wall Street.” They even created an online campaign “Marshall Tuck for Wall Street” to convince voters that he’s for “Wall Street’ not for our “kids”. By “Wall Street” I assume they mean Tuck’s Harvard Business School degree or the fact that his campaign is supported by businessmen like education reformer Eli Broad, who has over the years invested much of his own money in public charter school initiatives in an effort to promote new ideas in an education system that hasn’t worked for so many of California’s children. Wall Street is far from the truth. Tuck has led public charter schools in Los Angeles since 2002 and has been lauded for his ability to turn around high-poverty, low-performing schools.

While amused by the creativity that went into the creation of the campaign, I’m offended by its dishonesty.

Then there is Proposition 45, the initiative that will, if passed, impose on the health insurance rates of small employers the same rate regulation system that was imposed on the automobile and homeowners insurance industries. Proponents argue that the initiative is the only logical way to keep the cost of individual health insurance from growing out of control, while opponents believe it will give the elected insurance commissioner too much power. Of course, that is what we have elected an insurance commissioner to do. As it stands, the office of the Department of Insurance and the Department of Managed Health Care can review proposed rate increases, but cannot deny them. The monetary support for this initiative is also lop-sided. The opposition group, which includes hospitals, health plans, and physicians groups, has raised almost $38 million while the consumer advocate group leading the initiative has raised only about $6 million.

Two other significant initiatives on the ballot are Propositions 1 & 2 the Governor’s Water Bond and rainy day fund initiatives. I believe most of California understands the water emergency we have in this state and the need for an updated water delivery and storage infrastructure. And in case we don’t, the Governor and his supporters are spending millions of dollars on television ads to educate us on its merits. A current poll by the Public Policy Institute of California has the support of the initiatives at 58%. Of course it helps that the governor and his donors have raised almost $7 million to their opponents $71,000.

There is much to confuse even the most educated and sophisticated voter and sometimes it seems easier to just vote using the old method I’m sure we all used as students on test day when faced with multiple choice questions we had no clue how to answer: eeny meeny miny mo… But I caution you against it. Read newspaper editorials on the candidates and initiatives. Research who is supporting the initiative, who is against it, and who is funding either side. Review the arguments, both for and against, or attend a local community forum and ask your own questions of the candidates or campaign surrogates.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.” Become enlightened.

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