Our most pow­er­ful con­stituency?

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - George B. Reed Jr.

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 reed1600@bell­south.net.

Rossville res­i­dent

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