The high cost of low voter turnout
Writing topics appear in flashes for me. The flashes are like gusts of wind, in which the sails of my mind try to catch. While I was at the gym today, my mind caught up to one of these winds. My normal playlist was set in my iPhone, and I was working away. All of a sudden one particular song comes on, and the lyrics caught me. The song was Avenged Sevenfolds: Nightmare, the lyrics that caught a hold of me today was “You should have known the price of evil”. With that one verse, the topic of low voter turnout came to mind; especially the voter turnout from the 2010. Liberals, Progressives, Center-Left Independents should have known the price of evil that staying home in the 2010 midterms would cause; and if they didn’t they definitely know now.
How did we get to the dysfunctional state we are presently in on the eve of the 2012 electoral season? According to George Mason Universities United States Election Project (http://elections.gmu.edu/), the 2008 election had a voter turnout of 61.6%, out of the 213 million eligible voters, 132.6 million casted ballots. In response to the financial crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and complete discontent from eight years of Republican control, the Democrats completely swept the election. Jump forward two years and we see what happens when tens of millions of voters stay home. In the 2010 midterm election the voter turnout drops to 41%, even with 4 million more Americans joining the franchise 42 million less would cast ballots. Where did these voters go? More importantly, how do we get them back in 2012? We see the effect of these lost voters in Michael Tomasky’s article, Turnout: explains a lot for the Guardian, in regards to the low voter turnout:
“That’s at least 45 million no shows, and the exits tell us that the bulk of them were liberal, young, black and Latino. Democratic loses would pretty obviously been in the normal range, and they’d still control the house.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2010/nov/03/us-midterm-elections-2010-turnout-says-a-lot)
While the Tea Party and other far right elements of the Republican Party were out in greater numbers, the traditional Democratic base stayed home. The cost of low voter turnout for the Democrats was 5 seats in the senate and 62 in the house. On the state level, the price was even more catastrophic. According to Jeremy P. Jacobs of the National Journal:
“Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures…the GOP gained majority in at least 14 state house chambers…They now have unified control-meaning both chambers of 26 state legislatures” (http://hotlineoncall.nationaljournal.com/archives/2010/11/devastation-gop.php)
If the Democratic loses of 2010 weren’t bad enough, they gave the Republicans complete control of 26 state houses during redistricting. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we have even seen the attempt to piece meal out our electoral votes to lessen the blow of Pennsylvania leaning to the left in Presidential elections since 1992. We also see in many states that these 680 pickups while promising jobs, rolled back progress. Assaults on Women’s Rights, Gay Rights and Workers Rights were priority number 1 in many of these 26 state houses. As far as redistricting goes, the proposed redistricting laws in Texas and South Carolina are being challenged by the Department of Justice for violating the Voter’s Right Act of 1965. Voter ID laws that claim to combat so called voter fraud have also come from many of these State Houses, yet in actuality these laws make it harder for citizens to vote and in some cases are thinly veiled poll taxes.
In the face of all we lost in 2010, we look to 2012. In 2012 we must, as Saul Alinsky says in his Rules for Radicals:
“Fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame to fight” (Rules for Radicals, 194)
The same fire of discontent that we have seen in the occupy movement must transform to the ballot box. Registering more voters is important, convincing those already registered to exercise their vote is important as well, however, educating voters to see through the Conservative sophistries that have helped convince many voters to vote against their interest will be the greatest task for Progressive in 2012. We must remind voters that they possess the greatest tool for change; the very vote that we as citizens possess. While Conservatives have convinced the Supreme Court that corporations are people, only citizens can vote. These corporations can buy votes and flood campaigns with money, however only real people can vote.
In 2012 we will remind Republicans, Corporatists and Tea Party elements in our Politics of the words of Thomas Jefferson:
“The general sphere of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. (Letter to Roger C. Weightman…last letter written by Jefferson, 2 weeks before his death)
We have the opportunity to vote the saddle off our backs and dirty the boots of those happy few who think they are a noble sort. For through the power of the ballot we will organize and retake our government and progress will continue.