Over the past six years after every election, a relatively common question is why do so many Americans dependably vote against their own self-interests. Despite poor white people in southern red states barely surviving on slave wages, welfare, food stamps, and no adequate healthcare, they routinely vote for Republicans openly campaigning on driving their constituents deeper into poverty. It is true that opposition to Democrats as surrogates for an African American President is driven by racial animus, but even that fails to explain poor white voters electing abusive Republicans promising to eliminate programs that keep them alive and block Democratic attempts to lift them out of poverty.
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson understood how abusive Republicans could succeed, if only they kept the population unenlightened, or in street vernacular blind, dumb, and stupid. Jefferson said, “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of power.”
That was in 1820, but even before that Jefferson wrote that “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree. Therefore, it is imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens.”
Jefferson was not the first man to identify the death knell of democracy, or “self-government,” was an uneducated populace. Republicans understand they could hardly garner any electoral support if the population was educated and informed, so they have went to extraordinary and, often, unconstitutional lengths to keep the populace ignorant by cutting education funding. Whether it is transferring public school funding to private, religious, or underperforming charter schools, or just slashing education funding, Republicans will employ any measure to keep Americans stupid so they will vote against their own self-interests.
On Thursday, another judge ruled that Republicans in Texas used an unconstitutional scam to starve public schools and produce another generation of ignorant Texans to vote for Republicans. The Texas ruling was a repudiation of gubernatorial candidate Gregg Abbot’s defense of slashing well over $5 billion from public schools using an unconstitutional property tax scam. However, the means of slashing public education funding is unimportant, but it is a growing trend among Republican-led states whose goal is simply to maintain a base of support among uneducated voters.
Last week a judge in North Carolina ruled that a Republican privatization scheme was unconstitutional because it defunded public schools by shifting public education funds to private and charter religious schools. The judge correctly stated that the Republican scheme was to “siphon money from the public schools in favor of private schools, fund non-public schools that discriminate on account of religion, and to shift “public taxpayer money to private religious schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.” Besides a dirty privatization scam, N.C. Republicans want to keep the next generation of voters blind, dumb, and stupid so they will support policies that keep them in distress.
Last year in Kansas a judge ruled that Governor Sam Brownback’s Draconian cuts to public education were unconstitutional; particularly because the lack of funding was due to using taxpayer dollars to fund unsustainable tax cuts for the rich. Brownback, like all Republicans, desperately needs an ignorant and uneducated citizenry who regularly fall for the insane notion that taking money from the people to enrich corporations and the wealthy is key to an economic Utopia. It is noteworthy that the storied “trickle down” theory has existed for about a generation, and the people that were denied a decent education then ignorantly support Brownback’s economic lunacy that has the state suffering three recent credit downgrades and flirting with bankruptcy in the very near future. It is even likely that people suffering the drastic social program cuts enacted by Republicans will vote for Brownback because they are too stupid to understand they are voting against their own survival.
Another Republican state, Louisiana, is fighting federal and state court lawsuits due to Governor Bobby Jindal’s unconstitutional scheme of stealing from public schools to fund private religious institutions. Jindal, like all Republicans, depends on uneducated voters to support policies against their own self-interests such as rejecting free Medicaid expansion funding, giving free rein to dirty energy industry to foul Louisiana’s air and water, and cut social programs ignorant and uneducated citizens require to survive.
The common theme in keeping their citizens ignorant and uninformed is pandering to voters’ irrational fears. It is why Republicans’ claim Democrats are subverting their religious freedom, taking god out of schools, coming for their guns, and imposing Marxism, Socialism, or communism on the people. If any American does not believe how ignorance borne of an uneducated populace drives opposition to policies that help Americans, take heed of the number of times Republican and teabagger voters bemoan President Obama’s Marxist or socialist policies revealing they have no idea what Marxist or socialist policies entail. If one wants to end a debate, or conversation with a conservative parroting Republican talking points, ask them when the government came for their guns, what Marxism or socialism is, how their religious liberty, was subverted, or how President Obama is shredding the Constitution; a document they have never read, much less understand at even a rudimentary level.
It is beyond refute that if the citizens of this country were informed and educated, Republicans would be hard-pressed to get elected as dog-catchers, much less legislators. The assault on public education goes beyond Republican-controlled states as evidenced by congressional Republicans regularly cutting education funding. They, Republicans, know that if the public were educated, they could not demean science as the work of the devil, or claim contraception is abortion, or push the Christian bible as true science. There is a reason so many morons in the conservative movement are certain that god created America, wrote the Constitution, established America’s borders, and installed Christianity as the state religion, and it is simply due to their inability to pick up a history book or the founding document to check Republican claims for veracity.
Americans are not unintelligent, but a fair proportion of them are dirt stupid; it is the only reason a Republican ever gets elected. What Republicans are doing in the states to education is to maintain an ignorant, superstitious, and uninformed voting bloc as well as prepare the next generation to regularly vote against their own best interests. They will continue using any means to destroy public education because they know, as Founding Father Thomas Jefferson said, the only “true corrective of abuses of power is to see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens.” It is a corrective that Republicans are waging a fierce battle against because their electoral survival depends on keeping their supporters uneducated, uninformed, and frankly, stupid from religion.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.
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