It is a long-running theme of my political writings that politics junkies, on both the left and right, completely misunderstand the nature of the so-called ‘moderate’ voter, also sometimes called ‘centrists’ and ‘independents.’ For this reason, I want to highlight this excellent article by Richard Fernandez on the Low Information Voter:
“The phrase “low information voter” was originally coined to describe people who were too stupid to vote for liberal policies because they didn’t know what was good for them.”
Of course, as I have argued, low information voters are neither liberal nor conservative. In terms of political ideology, there is no ‘there’ there. The low information just doesn’t care about government policies at all.
“Conventional wisdom [CW] is something everyone knows is true but almost no one knows why. However, as Wikipedia notes, “conventional wisdom is not necessarily true. Conventional wisdom is additionally often seen as an obstacle to the acceptance of newly acquired information.”
“Once something becomes CW it is almost cast in stone. John Maynard Keynes said that after age 25 or 30 people seldom change their understanding of how economies work. Therefore if you can convince an elementary school kid that socialism is grand and communism is even better that locks a generation or two into that CW.
There is a big First Mover advantage to creating an item of conventional wisdom. Once established, it is hard to overthrow.”
This is why young people start out as socialist. They’re socialist because that’s what their teachers teach them to be.
“The way conventional wisdoms end is they are taken to their logical conclusions.
If the First Mover advantage belongs to the originators of the narrative, then an equally important role must be accorded the Last Movers. Their strategy is to remain the last man standing, and pick up the pieces. The Last Movers don’t argue; they survive. They don’t have to worry about the nonsense low information voters believe because that entire system of cues will crash and therefore the LIVs will be blank slates ready to be overwritten.”
This is why the panic-mongers in the conservative movement are wrong when they predict that the conservative movement is doomed because young people tend to veer to the left. These chicken littles have been making this claim ever since the Baby Boomers – the most radical generation of all – were young. They are wrong because the left-wing narrative that young people learn in school is exploded as they become exposed to reality. Jobs, taxes, marriage, mortgage payments, children and divorce all conspire to teach former young people the real lessons of life.
And so, young people, tempted initially by the vision of a socialist utopia, morph into conservative realists as they age. (Of course, it would be much better for them - and society as a whole - if they were able to hit the ground running.)
“One often thinks of arguments as being settled by debate, via a kind of dialectic. Yet in fact arguments are often decided by survival. The narrative that wins in history isn’t the most beautiful meme; often just the one that can show up tomorrow.”
In other words, as I have said before, public policies are not merely fashion trends with no more real-world consequence than the length of hemlines. They have consequences, and the long-term consequences of a policy are more important than its short-term popularity. Some ideas are more correct than others. If we accept that conservative or libertarian ideas are better for society than socialist ideas, then we have to accept – and be prepared to exploit – the long-term unpopularity of initially popular socialist proscriptions.
So lets stop, for once and for all, all this talk about jettisoning conservative principles to appeal to ‘moderates’. They aren’t moderates; they are low information voters. And they don’t give a fig about the policies of any political party. Our core supporters, however, do care about such things, and we can’t afford to antagonize them if hope to win.