We just finished the most important election in human history, we do that every two years. In Texas, with about 70% of the Voting Age Population (VAP) registered, 19% of these registered voters actually voted. Out of 100 who could vote 13.3 did vote. If 30% will always vote republican and 30% will always vote democratic, then our politicians were selected by 5 actual voters out 100 potential voters.
The winning politician always claims that the American public has spoken and they have a mandate. Neither claim is true, at least 95% of the American public did not vote for you, Mr. Politician.
Of the top 40 capitalist democracies the USA ranks 39th in voter participation.
Of the VAP there has seen a consistent drop off of registration, with a consistent drop off of participation by registered voters.
That is the data, what does it mean?
This fall in voter turnout matches the fall in equity wealth by the middle class. Indeed, all of the perceived losses by the middle class tracks closely with the decreasing voter turnout.
The received political wisdom says a lower turnout favors republicans and a higher turnout favors democrats. Since the VAP turnout never exceeds 45% (43.73% for the 2012 presidential election), this theory is valid only for a small voter turnout. The other democracies have VAP numbers of 71% to 93%, with an average of about 80%. If we had a VAP turnout of 80%, who knows what the result would be? We haven’t seen that kind of turnout since the early elections by our founding fathers. The founders seriously limited the voter franchise, but those who could vote, did vote. Very much different than today.
Why the low voter turnout? All the theories I have read from our professional political class is self-serving. For example, a leading right wing theory is that our welfare system depresses voter turnout by turning productive citizens into lazy, mindless zombies. This theory fails to explain the 38 countries with better safety nets and higher voter turnout. Both political parties bemoan the stupid American voter, and I often hear democracy decried as mob rule.
I believe low voter turnout is intentional. The politicians want to choose their voters, they do not want voters to choose their politician. The politicians have consistently and tirelessly worked to reduce voter participation. With the best research from the top professionals they have created policies, laws and practices that successfully depress voter turnout.
Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” This is true, truth always wins out. If you can limit the vote to those you can fool all the time, you get to control the government for your own purposes. To this end, elites can create negative political advertisement that will motivate their “base” while repelling the majority of voters, driving them away from the voting booth. Since they are all crooks, why bother to vote? I have heard nonvoters cite, "If voting mattered it wouldn't be allowed", never realizing that because voting matters, the elites must control it, limit it, even deny it. Using the best research that money can buy, elites can identify and locate their “base”, then modify the institutions of voting to preferentially favor their “base”. This is what I observed in the latest election.
Voter turnout can be increased, there are 38 examples we can study for possible answers. The best research about high voter turnout predicts outcomes that the current crop of politicians find frightening. The result of a low voter turnout is comforting to the current political elites. I am sure they would prefer that only their mother, wife and daughter be allowed to vote.
But I can dream can’t I? I can dream of a meritocracy where all men are created equal, I can dream of a legal system where a private individual has the same rights as a megacorporation, I can dream of a system where a young person can succeed by working hard and obeying the law. That would be a wonderful country to raise a family in.