There is an old saying that you get what you pay for. In the world of politics, that might better be said as you get the candidate that someone else has paid for. But it need not be that way. Setting aside for a moment the issues of election fraud and voter suppression that have mired this campaign season in the mud, it remains the case that we can have the candidate for whom the majority of us vote. What is very important to understand is just how few of us act to make that decision.
Most Americans who pay attention to the political world already know that our electorate has a certain notoriety for not showing up to actually vote. In our best general election tallies, barely 57% of registered voters actually make it to the polls. In the primaries, you can cut that percentage in half.
This campaign season, much of the talk in the main stream media has focused on the record turnouts on both sides of the political aisle. Coupled with images from Arizona, Massachusetts and Michigan of long lines queuing up to polling stations, the concerned viewer might think that the political revolution of 2016 is at long last drawing vast numbers of Americans into the political process. Not so. Thus far, and calculated on a state by state basis, the Republican primaries have drawn out 17.3% of all eligible voters and the Democratic primaries 11.7%. Combined then, only 29% of eligible voters from the states which have already held their primary polling have actually made it out to vote. By extension, by the time that we get around to the general election in November, less than one third of our eligible voters will have determined the candidates between whom all of us have to choose.
And this is a record year for voting! The Republicans’ 17.3% represents their highest total since 1980 and the Democrats’ 11.7% their highest since 1992. When many of us ask, rhetorically, “Is this the best we can do?,” the answer is certainly “yes,” if we rely on a small portion of the electorate to get out and do the dirty work of voting.
When we look at a candidate like Donald Trump, who is seemingly running away with the Republican nomination, he is doing so (presently) with about 34% of the 17.3% who actually come out to vote. In other words, Trump has roughly 6% of the population of eligible voters behind him and he is very likely to become the Republican nominee.
Is this an aberration of some sort? No. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 30 states, the District of Columbia and the Republican nomination with a combined total of only 9.8 million votes. That number represented a turnout of just 5.1% of the eligible voters during that cycle’s primaries.
Why do so many people let so few determine whom our leaders will be? The short answer must encompass laziness and disinterest on the part of the voter. But equally significant as a cause of poor voter turnout is voter suppression. The small turnouts in our primary seasons are nothing new. So, the question becomes, how do I win with a small amount of voter support? The answer, simply enough, is to do all that you can to maximize your voters while discouraging your opponents’ voters from taking part in the process.
In this cycle, it appears that the Clinton campaign, in collusion with the DNC, has done a far better job of getting their own vote out (often through early voting mail-in programs), while making it harder for Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley to maximize their own voters. The dramatically reduced number of polling stations in Maricopa County, voters who were mysteriously re-registered as Republicans or Independents, a bomb threat to the hotline headquarters for voter issues, letters directing Washington voters to the wrong caucus sites, running out of ballots in Florida by noon time, all of these are examples of ways in which the vote was overtly suppressed.
More insidious perhaps is the suppression of the vote by the main stream media. Between endlessly proclaiming the Clinton campaign to be farther ahead in delegates than they actually are and calling the vote in Arizona with only 1% of it in, the media created a reason for people who had been standing in line for five hours to just pack it in and go home. These are textbook examples of a carefully coordinated voter suppression program. Interestingly enough, every instance of voter suppression and election fraud has served to help the same candidate. Coincidence?
But here you are, frustrated and longing to do your civic duty. You should be. While we can argue all day that the process of voting should be simple, fair and available to all eligible Americans, it is not going to be, so long as the people calling the shots remain the people calling the shots. It is incumbent upon all of us to work harder to exercise our right to vote, so that those who would suppress our vote have to work that much harder themselves. Right now, we are making it far too easy for monied interests and national committees to rig the election.
What should you do?
First, ignore the hype from the media and the national committees. The media is owned by corporations which share a hip pocket with the Super Pacs of the front runners and the committees themselves. They are nothing more than mouthpieces for whomever pays them the most money. They are mercenaries or, less politely, whores. The purpose of the media is to disseminate misinformation in a coordinated effort to maintain the establishment by suppressing grass roots efforts to effect change.
Second, ignore the polls. The vast majority of polling in the United States is done by telephone and the costs to do so are kept down through the use of predictive dialers and robo-callers. The problem is that it is illegal under FCC statutes to use a predictive dialer or a robotic calling device to call a cellular phone. That must still be done by hand, in a costly and time-consuming fashion. Therefore, well in excess of 90% of telephone polling is done exclusively to land lines and some 40% of our population no longer has a land line to call. That same 40% is also reflective of a younger demographic, so the polls tend to be skewed toward older voters.
Third, research the facts about the candidates. It is easier than you might think. Remember, campaign rhetoric is just that. It is a lot of sturm und drang, vague promises and idle threats. What the candidates promise is infinitely less significant than what they produce. Go to your browser and search for a candidate’s name and legislative record. This will show you just what legislation that candidate has actually authored (sponsored) and what legislation of theirs has been passed into law. The latter is significant as it tends to show the candidate’s ability to work across the aisle, essential to getting anything done in Washington.
Fourth, make sure you are properly registered. Try doing a search online for your county and state and voter registration. From there, you should be able to determine just how you are registered in the eyes of your state. There have been far too many instances of voter suppression by reassigning registration to the wrong party or to an Independent status in states which do not allow Independents to vote in primaries. Check that too! If you are an Independent, change your registration to reflect the party of the candidate you prefer, so that you can be sure to be able to vote in your state’s primary.
It might look like more work, but if you ignore the hype and ignore the polls, you will find that you have more time to research the candidates and check on your registration.
Lastly, get out to vote. Make the time and you can make the difference. Do not let anyone convince you that your vote does not count. When the turnout is so low, each vote carries that much more weight. When John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency in 1960, he did so because he won the state of Illinois. And he won the state of Illinois by less than 9000 votes. Your vote matters. Your vote could change the world.
Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Voter suppression tactics are about shutting people up and shutting them out. Exercise your right. Vote. Your voice will be heard, loud and clear.
On the 2016 Primary voting:
On the JFK election: