Fake news & the 'skeptical voter'
The last few years have been sobering for political discourse and certainly with regard to the flood of misinformation and fake news proliferated on social media. The most recent election in the UK showed the Conservative Party engaged in blatant attempts at misrepresentation by rebranding their HQ Twitter account into a ‘fact-checking’ account during a high profile leaders debate. There were also doctored videos of opposition politicians doing the rounds along with the overall chatter of political types online that required voters to be extremely vigilant in what they believed from what they read. Looking ahead to this year and the US elections are likely to see similar issues.
Voters are understandably concerned about this atmosphere of fake news and whether they can be really sure of the information they are basing their voting intention on. However, it is encouraging that a healthy degree of skepticism has entered the public discourse and voters are less likely to be fooled now that they have their guard up. Fake ads will be a feature of election races from Presidential to town council, attack ads will continue to be a part of the campaign’s arsenals, and the overall muddying of the waters by so many competing voices will require the electorate to work harder to discern the truth in each case. That being said, there are online properties like Ballot Ready and fact-checking accounts that should be followed by voters so they can see these in their timelines as well.
The reality is that people should read from trustworthy news sites, go onto properly vetted web pages and do the research. If an ad on Facebook seems too extreme or a video is going viral on Twitter that seems dubious - it probably isn’t legitimate.
Rebuilding collaboration at the local level
The US Presidential race in 2020 will dominate the mainstream media headlines but there are going to be at least half a million other elections at a state and local level. These races will be far more important for most people simply because these are the politicians who you will meet and have a conversation with. Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump aren't going to knock on your door but your local politician probably will so make sure you know what you want them to go away thinking about, whether that is healthcare, education or whatever. Think about the people you can get in front of and ask the difficult questions to! For politicians, these grassroots interactions with voters are the most important conversations you will have and should inform how you think. It's time for the voters to step up and hold these candidates accountable and the beauty is we can do this from our own doorstep.