As I write this, it’s been a couple of weeks since the Presidential Election – or if you prefer, the Pestilential Election since the ads probably qualified as a Biblical plague. Anyway, Hillary lost and Trump won. Or did he? And no, I’m not talking about the Popular Vote vs. the Electoral Vote. Take a look at this graph.
The numbers have been rounded off a bit but what you’re seeing that right. 48% of the Eligible Voters in the US did NOT vote for either Clinton or Trump. And since neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein is the President Elect, the vast majority of that 48% didn’t vote for them either. So the “Landslide Victory” for Trump and the “Significant Popular Vote Win” for Clinton simply didn’t happen. Trump won with about 26% of the eligible voters. Oddly enough, Clinton lost with about 26% of the eligible voters. And if you figure in the people that didn’t vote FOR Trump so much as they voted AGAINST Clinton…and vice versa…the true percentages for either candidate are even smaller. Trump’s “Landslide Victory” was the result of Electoral distribution and nothing else.
So what really happened?
What really happened is almost half the eligible voters in this country didn’t vote! It’s not that they didn’t vote for Clinton or Trump or Johnson or Stein. They didn’t vote at all! Of course, that begs the question of “Why?”.
There’s a whole raft of reasons. Some of the ones I’ve heard are:
- I don’t trust the system.
- Neither party/candidate really represents me.
- I never registered.
- There’s no real difference between the candidates.
- It doesn’t really matter anyway.
What all these reasons and a bunch of others boil down to is that a whole lot of people feel so disenfranchised that they can’t be bothered to vote. That also begs the question of “Why?”. Asking a few further questions points to one possible reason.
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. – Groucho Marx
Both parties have their entire identities tied up in political ideologies that only appeal to themselves. To put it more simply, they’re preaching to the faithful. And the sermon is based around one simple idea – you’re either with us or against us. Both parties do it. Take a look at the political ads and listen to the speeches. It all boils down to us versus them…and “them” is evil.
The modern version of this bit of political brilliance goes back to the 1960’s with the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy. The basic idea is to make a lot of noise about what scares a bunch of people and then blame the scary shit on the other party. Sound familiar? The Republicans and the Democrats both have been beating that drum this entire election. The only difference is which side of the drum they’re pounding on.
It’s an effective idea as far as it goes but it ignores a basic reality of life. No one agrees with everything. I’m a Republican. There are proposed policies of the Republican platform that I agree with. But there are a lot that I don’t agree with. By the same token, there are proposed policies of the Democratic party that I agree with and others that I don’t. My wife, a Democrat, will say pretty much the same thing. This means that neither party really represents me…or her. And apparently almost 48% of eligible voters feel the same way only more so…more so enough that they didn’t bother to vote.
If you find a good solution and become attached to it, the solution may become your next problem. – Robert Anthony
So how do the parties fix this problem. They fix it by making a concerted effort to talk to those disenfranchised voters, to listen to their problems and to work with them for solutions that more people can live with. The only problem is, I don’t think either the Republicans or the Democrats are up to the challenge.
Both parties have existed long enough now that they’re almost completely devoted to the singular goal of simply continuing to exist. “We exist so we must continue to exist because we have to exist if we want to continue to exist.” They don’t really care about the American People anymore…except where those people vote and help the parties continue to exist.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against the Two Party System. I think it’s a fine idea. It works – maybe not all that smoothly but I consider that a safety feature to keep either party from gaining complete control. My problem is with the current two parties. I think they’ve both outlived their useful lives. It’s time for them to be replaced.
And now for something completely different
Half the problem the current leading parties have is that they’ve become so polarized that they only appeal to their own brand of True Believers. There’s this big group of people in the middle that don’t feel they’re really represented by either party. Take a look at this chart…
Now consider the 48% of the eligible voters that DIDN’T vote. That’s roughly equivalent to all the independents and about half of both the Center Left and Center Right. Think about all the Hillary and Bernie-philes you know. They probably fit over on the left edge of that curve. And all the Trump-philes fit in on the right end. Who represents the people in the middle of the curve?
Over the last several elections, the political polarization has gotten worse and worse. This is what Pew Research has found over the last twenty-plus years.
If this trend continues, by 2020 or 2024 we’ll have two parties that represent nothing but extremist liberals and extremist conservatives with everybody else left unrepresented in the middle kinda like this…
Or maybe more accurately like this…
Think about the last 8 years. When President Obama was first elected, Mitch McConnell stated that Republican’s top priority was to deny Obama a second term. Not to work with the President, not to work for the people, not to support their constituents. No, their job was to make sure that the next President was Republican. In other words, “Screw what’s good for the country and the voters! We want to make sure we remain in power!”
The Democrats did similarly heinous things by stacking the Super Delegates in the Primary so that Hillary Clinton was the chosen Candidate instead of risking the possibility that Bernie Sanders might win. Again, “Screw what’s good for the country and what the voters want! We want to make sure we remain in power!”
If the two major parties are willing to do that to their own constituents, what are they willing to do to the other party’s constituents? And what are they willing to do to the unrepresented 48%? They’re certainly not trying to win them as voters. If they were they’d be willing to at least discuss less extreme responses to the issues.
A Modest Proposal
Here’s a quick question for you…what could happen if we were to have a strong Moderate 3rd Party? Just think about it. A Moderate Party would be able to find common ground with both Democrats and Republicans on certain issues. A lot of the Partisan Politics that aggravate so many of us would get cut down to a minimum. And most importantly, the large, moderate middle of the US political spectrum would finally have representation.
We need a Moderate Party. Call it what you will – Centrist, Moderate, Average Joe’s Party, whatever – but the majority of eligible voters simply don’t have anyone looking out for their interests and that needs to change. The status has been quo for far too long. Instead of more and more extreme candidates and policies we need moderation. We need Congressmen who will work with the other parties. We need a President who is willing to work for compromise solutions for the common good. We need politicians who work for us, their constituents instead of for themselves and who work for our interests instead of the interests of their political party.
Late Breaking Edit…
The final vote count is in…I hope. An updated version of my opening chart is in order to reflect the final numbers.
The unrepresented percentage changes from 48% to 45% but that doesn’t change my argument one bit. Nearly half of the US population is not represented by either the Democrats or the Republicans in any meaningful way. They…WE…need and deserve people who represent our interests. Not people who are only interested in keeping their party alive to the detriment of the United States.