Fighting Trumpism with Education

The 2020 election illustrated the democratic left's strengths and weaknesses.

We got Biden elected, but an expected blue wave never happened. The Democrats enjoyed success among cities and suburbs but gains were limited to the middle and upper-middle classes. The working class, people of color and small businesses received little aid medically or financially. Stuck with the choice to work or starve, many opted to back Trump’s plan to keep the economy open. Keeping businesses open appeared to be the only solution in a system that does not guarantee health care or income for emergencies or the unemployed.

Cities' wealth prevents the middle classes from seeing how inequality keeps us oblivious to the needs of blue-collar workers and the poor. For the relatively well-off, working from home is an inconvenience but not a threat. The isolation of the affluent keeps them from seeing what the impoverished need to survive. Desperation makes the working class more vulnerable to Trumpist propaganda. To help prevent this misinformation from further undermining democracy, we must make sure the working classes have access the tools to be politically conscious.

Boundaries are vanishing between news and propaganda. News sources range from newspapers, the web and Fox to Russia and web-based companies focused on whatever gets the most profits. Unlike mainstream newspapers, much of the internet has no allegiance to truth  - only profits. Google search algorithms maximize profits by repeating the user's bias. Technology changes so rapidly that we do not always see news migrating into propaganda. The wealthy now use science and technology to influence public views. Knowledgeable citizens are needed more than ever to ensure democracy's survival.

Confronting inequality's economic and informational assault requires stronger investments in education by increasing taxes on the middle and upper classes . Biden may become cautious as the political center has hardly moved, so federal funds may not be available for the necessary informational initiative. If reforming the web cannot be federally funded, we need increased state support for schools’ financing in order to reduce reliance on property taxes. Property taxes leave poorer areas struggling and thus less capable of financing thorough education – necessary to keep people open to critical thinking. Courses required to understand our current reality include earth science, civics, international studies and critical theory discussions on how to differentiate between bias and truth. Science needs to be taught not by just stating facts but by showing how we discovered them.

If you want democracy, you need knowledgeable citizens, and they require a full education. You will have to pay for democracy; it is not a given.

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