Being informed is an American responsibility

Published 9:49 pm Monday, August 14, 2017

By Joseph L. Bass

Having educated, informed voters is a key element for a democracy to be effective. The people’s votes can result in government going the right way or the wrong way.

Too often recently there have been violent clashes between people and their own government. A few years ago, there was a series of riots in a midwestern city that resulted in the burning of businesses and murder. Those that promote such actions didn’t address the fact that traditionally only about 12 percent of voters in that city usually voted.

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In nearly all cases involving bad government, the responsibility lies with the voters who did not fulfill their responsibilities as citizens. To avoid negative government, people must strive to inform and educate themselves on issues and events.

Many negative patterns develop through the votes of uninformed, uneducated voters. One involves the electorate ignoring that the United States is a multi-cultural, multi-racial society with equal rights and opportunities for all.

An American reality is that minorities have been discriminated against by those in power. There have been times when government has been directly involved in enforcing discrimination. This, of course, is wrong and is a source of many of our problems today.

But there have been examples when a minority group has gained control of government and wrongly used its power. The playing out of this negative pattern involves those newly in power, channeling the people’s funds and jobs for the benefit of their minority at the expense of the rest. This is seen by them as their way of punishing those involved in previous discrimination.

When this situation develops, biased governmental practices result in an increase of new, unnecessary government jobs and business opportunities based on race and/or ethnicity. When the voters allow this to continue, government numbers mushroom, as do taxes. With people not being hired based on merit, government, in turn, becomes ineffective.

This negative pattern has played out in many American cities. To overcome the pattern, voters must strive to better inform themselves about the histories of these situations. They must detect the negative trends and vote to return government to what it should be, representing and benefiting all.

One of the eras of biased government that can be studied involves the Tammany Society that controlled New York City politics for decades. From the election of Fernando Wood as city mayor in 1854, Tammany operated government through patronage and corruption.

For example, at the beginning of the Great Depression federal government relief money was not used to help the poor, but ended up in the wallets of Tammany Hall members. Its political control was not finally addressed until the 1930s through the influence of Franklin Roosevelt as governor and Fiorello La Guardia as mayor.

Of course, Tammany maintained its control through Catholic Irish Americans’ votes. Being a citizen of the United States comes with freedom, but it also comes with responsibilities.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at