Apr 152007
Authors: Andy Nicewicz

Winston Churchill once said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” and I really think there might be something to that.

Democracy has some serious issues, and the foremost might be that a large portion of the public simply doesn’t know anything about the important political issues they are voting on.

In order for a democracy to succeed, it requires the voters to be sufficiently educated on the subjects they are voting on and understand the issues candidates running for political office are taking a stance on as well.

If the voters don’t understand the issues, even at a remedial level, how can we elect the people who have the best solutions to the problems of this nation?

Sadly though, Americans seem to be incredibly ignorant on important political issues.

For instance, a survey conducted by National Geographic concentrating on Americans aged 18-25 found that 63 percent of the people questioned couldn’t point out Iraq on a map of the Middle East. Nine out of 10 couldn’t pick out Afghanistan.

A similar poll conducted by the Collegian found slightly better results: Only 49 percent of people polled couldn’t point out Iraq.

But that’s still pretty pathetic.

Honestly, if you can’t find Iraq on a map, is it at all likely that you understand its complex religious and social issues? Would you understand U.S. security policy and our interests in the region?

But more importantly, if you don’t understand these topics (it seems most U.S. foreign policy makers don’t either), how can you make a good choice when it comes to selecting a politician who will make the best decisions on that issue?

The simple answer is that you can’t. Let’s face it, if you can’t find Iraq on a map, there is no way you can know how to best deal with the situation there. And there is no way you can claim to know which candidate has the best platform either.

So what it eventually comes down to, most of us are probably voting for candidates having no idea what the best solution is to the War in Iraq, and it’s probably safe to say this goes for a lot of other issues as well. Either that or we use the time-honored method of voting straight down party lines or whose hair looks the best.

This is a problem for democracy that I’m not sure can ever be solved. But you know what, Winston Churchill also said this: “Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Andy Nicewicz is a senior political science major. His column appears every Monday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to

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