The election results are in and I am very disappointed. Not in who won and who lost, but in how few bothered to even vote. Those who didn’t vote gave the election away to those who were determined to vote. And many of those who didn’t vote, if they had voted, might have flipped the results the other way. This is probably true of both those who normally favor Democrats and of those who normally favor Republicans.
Too many claim they don’t like to choose the lesser of two evils. Well, guess what? If you don’t choose the lesser of two evils you might get the “worser” of two evils.
Many in Duluth are proud that they had one of the highest turnouts in the country at a bit less than 60 percent. I think it is not something to be proud of because a bit more than 40 percent of registered voters didn’t even bother to show up.
Who makes up these no-shows? Are they people that don’t even care about politics? Are they people who have other priorities, like Dick Cheney? Are they people who don’t think their vote counts? Are they people who don’t think their candidates have a chance? To those who think their vote doesn’t count – of course it doesn’t, you didn’t cast it. To those who think their candidates don’t have a chance – of course they don’t have a chance, you didn’t vote for them.
I hope that those who did win have a bit of humility by realizing that most registered voters didn’t support them. Most registered voters didn’t support them? Well if 40 percent didn’t show up and a candidate received 60 percent of the vote of those who did, then only 36 percent of the registered voters supported them. Hey, that’s a lot better than Ronald Reagan’s “landslide” with the support of less than 30 percent of the registered voters.
Let’s look at two races familiar to many in Duluth – 8th District for the U.S. House and 7A for the Minnesota House.
Let’s take the closer race first - 8th District with Stewart Mills, Rick Nolan, and Skip Sandman. Only 266,081 of the 389,425 registered voters showed up. Less than four thousand votes separated Mills and Nolan. Nolan had a plurality of 48.51 percent vs. Mills’ 47.11 percent. Nolan did not win a majority of the votes cast. But if we look at the candidates’ support among registered voters, the support is even less. Nolan received the support of about 33 percent of the registered voters and Mills was close behind with a bit more than 32 percent of the voters.
Next let’s look at the more lop-sided race – District 7A with Becky Hall, Jennifer Schultz, and Kris Osbakken. Less than 16 thousand of the over 23 thousand registered voters showed up. Schultz had 62.1 percent vs. Hall’s 33.3 percent. But Schultz did not have the votes of a majority of registered voters; less than 41 percent of the registered voters cast a vote for her.
You can find the data I used at on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s pages at http://electionresults.sos.state.mn.us/ENR/Home/20.
I didn’t go through all the Minnesota races, but I think you’ll find this lack of majority support in most, if not all races, in Minnesota and throughout the country. For example, Sen. Al Franken may have had a clear majority of the votes cast, but he received the support of less than a third of the registered voters.
It is easy to blame corporate interests for the big gains by the Republicans across the country, especially when the New York Times has headlines like “Business Leaders Cautiously Expect G.O.P. Win to Open Some Doors” (2014-11-05). Given the statements by some Republicans, one could expect a floodgate of legislation that favors corporations over the environment and public health. It is easy to blame the Supreme Court for letting corporations have all the rights of people that led to huge amounts of money spent on attack ads. It is easy to blame the Koch brothers for manipulating legislation and public opinion to their benefit.
It is hard to remember that this has been going on in politics for over two centuries.
Newspapers in the early Nineteenth century often were libelous in their attacks on politicians they didn’t favor. Corporations lobbied for their pet projects. Remember “Honest Abe” was a railroad lawyer and, as President, even called for doubling the subsidy for building a transcontinental railroad, a corporate give-away if there ever was one.
For over 100 years the turnout of the voting age population has been “dismal” in presidential elections. The high was 73.2 percent in 1900, the low was 48.9 percent in 1924, and average since 1900 have been 57.0 percent. Interestingly, Bush I and Bush II had 50.3 percent turnout, Bush II did better in his second election with 55.7 percent turnout. Then Obama did better and better: 57.1 percent and 59.3 percent turnout. Hope does increase turnout.
Will the turnout continue to climb in 2016? It depends on you.
Mel voted and hopes you did, too.
This article was published in the Reader Weekly, 2014-11-13 and can be found at http://duluthreader.com/articles/2014/11/13/4345_we_the_people_lost_they_the_corporations_won.