Posted on: March 18, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Sarah Schudt

By Christina Weszelitz, JRN 111 Student

Unrest in the United States is leading to mistrust in the election system, which in turn causes a fundamental problem for our entire system of government, according to political science professor Kevin Navratil.

Although there has always been mistrust in the election and legal system, Navratil said, it has gotten worse in recent years, and “having trust in the outcome of elections is a hallmark of democracy.”

Navratil dove into the issue of mistrust during a Democracy Commitment event that took place via WebEx on March 9, “How misinformation can impact political processes, policymaking, and election laws.”

There is a trickling effect in politics where “the elite will spread misinformation to the public and people, which creates a change in election laws,” said Navratil. 

He explained a concept in political science known as the bully pulpit, which refers to how presidents can hold events and give speeches to try raise awareness or move public opinion to support their agenda: “When they give their speech, the media will cover it and the speech will get more attention.” 

Political science professor Kevin Navratil explains the effects of misinformation on democracy in a WebEx event.

As a result of “the big lie” that Donald Trump beat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, many states have passed “really restrictive laws that could really hamper voter turnout,” Navratil said.

Trump has been spreading misinformation for a long time, Navratil said. He showed a clip of Trump and Hillary Clinton debating in 2016 in which Clinton pointed out Trump’s attempt at manipulating facts by saying that election was “rigged.” 

“Every time Donald thinks things are not going his way, he claims whatever it is is rigged against him,” Clinton said. 

Although Trump’s misinformation tactics have been prevalent, other presidents and candidates such as Richard Nixon also have engaged in misinformation. 

“No matter what political party you belong to, there is misinformation,” Navratil said. “Misinformation has a long past in election history.” 

Navratil believes mistrust will get worse in the future. He described the trend toward distrust of major institutions such as the government, the media and the election system as “real troubling” and said it’s hard to think of ways to stop the trend and gain back trust.

The event drew a small attendance of seven people, but Navratil hopes they came away  with information about how misinformation can change the government. A video of the event is available on the Moraine Valley library’s YouTube channel.