Our most powerful constituency?
Many Americans are probably still wondering how Donald Trump was elected when most polls showed his approval rating on election day was less than 50 percent. This must mean that some people voted for a candidate of whom they disapproved. I guess they must have disapproved of Hillary even more.
But in a nation where only 58% of the eligible voters went to the polls in 2016, who knows whom the majority of Americans really preferred?
Just think about these figures for a moment. Ninety million eligible American voters, not much less than the membership of both parties combined, failed to exercise their right/duty to vote in 2016. In a recent survey of 34 developed countries the U.S. ranked 31st in voter turnout. For the world’s oldest democracy that is worse than just embarrassing; it’s a total disgrace. But will that bother us enough to get us to the polls next time?
The four Scandinavian countries, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, outperform us on many international comparisons such as the world happiness scale, standard of living, quality of life, medical care, education, etc. And, not surprisingly, they also rank among the top nations in voter turnout. But is low voter participation the cause or the result of something?
Some Democrats blame the new voter ID (voter suppression) laws. But these are mostly in states that are solidly Republican anyway. But since election fraud is increasingly rare, hasn’t voter ID really become a straw-man issue? To me the real reason for low voter turnout is voter apathy, or as my grandmother would say, “just plain sorryness.” But I also think fewer Americans today care about voting because no matter whom we send to Washington, little real change takes place.
In the Treasury Department especially, many of the faces remain pretty much the same no matter who is in the White House. And the 1978 Carter tax restructuring bill, originally intended to give tax relief to lower-income people and boost the economy, wound up giving generous tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals and only modest reductions to those for whom it was intended. It’s also a fact that the wealthy elite in this country donate nearly equally to both parties. By doing this they are assured of favored access to the government no matter who controls the White House and Congress.
Our unique system of checks and balances has sustained us for over two centuries now. But the ingeniously antidemocratic political stratagems such as the Senate filibuster, the unrepresentative electoral college and the shameless gerrymandering of congressional districts has prevented needed changes from being introduced, much less ever coming to a vote. Our representation is really out of balance, but the present setup only promises more of the same.
As high as ninety percent of Americans today say they are dissatisfied with their present congressional representation. Then why do they keep sending the same bought-and-paidfor bozos back to Washington every two years? The solution? Would it upset anybody too much if I suggested a third party, one capable of electing a president, vice president and congress? The GOP began as a third party.
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at email@example.com.