The biggest, most ignored demographic in electoral politics
A higher percentage of eligible voters regularly show up to the polls in Mexico, Brazil, and Slovakia than in the world's pre-eminent and oldest democracy.
The two parties that, in reality, constitute a uniparty duopoly bend over backward to cater to their respective pet voting blocs (racial minorities for Democrats and Evangelicals for Republicans, for instance). But those demographics pale in comparison to the volume of non-voters.
The 2020 presidential election was a banner year for participatory democracy. It turned out a record number of voters (most of them presumably legal, eligible ones), amounting to 62% of the electorate. That's the best it gets participation-wise in the US. The 2022 midterms produced about a 47% turnout.
George Carlin, whom I revere, did a whole hilarious bit in which he blamed the slovenly public for producing terrible politicians, citing the ignorant American population as the reason electoral politics is pointless.
Some percentage of the non-voting population is certainly apathetic or disinterested in politics. And they deserve a share of the blame for the sorry state of affairs, for sure.
Yes, some contingent of the population will always be checked out of participatory politics because they simply can't be bothered to engage in civic pursuits. But a minimum of 38% — on the best of years — of the entire eligible voting public each election cycle? Are they all useless, ignorant slobs who don't appreciate the precious, hard earned right to self-government?
Or is there something more intrinsic to the U.S. political system that dissuades them?
The majority of non-voters are independents who do not identify with either party. Most have no higher than a high school education and also make less than $40K/year. In other words, they're people don't belong to the permanent D.C. political class and don't see their interests represented there.
Less than 30% of Americans approve of the American two-party system. Lots of non-voters, like one interviewed by NPR, don't feel like voting matters at all: "I feel like my voice doesn't matter[.] People who suck still are in office, so it doesn't make a difference."
Can the political system be reformed to counteract this widespread perception that participation is pointless? Here are potential remedies to the real or imagined disincentives for non-voters to participate in the Great American Experiment:
- Break the two-party duopoly. The American Conservative published a thorough article on how to accomplish this.
- Term limits. The McCarthy refuseniks actually pushed for a vote on this issue as a precondition to elect the new House speaker.
- Spotlight the corruption. Require politicians to wear an insignia on their $1,000 suits for every corporation that has funneled money into their campaign, directly or indirectly, like NASCAR drivers. Voters should know whether they're supporting a human being or a mindless corporate robot.
- Transparency. Declassify all the documents currently hidden from the public that do not have a legitimate national security justification to remain classified, as determined by some truly independent panel empowered to make such judgment calls. By the government's own admission, up to 90% of these documents would not adversely affect national security if they were released. Their status as classified does not serve "national security"; it keeps the Deep State's dirty secrets hidden from those of us who pay for their dirty deeds to be performed in our name. JFK expressed the essence of this wild notion, and he was rewarded with a bullet in the head.
Of course, reform might a pipe dream. The swamp is so deep at this point that the only true remedy may be to drain it all and start over.
Ben Bartee is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs. Follow his stuff via Armageddon Prose and/or Substack, Patreon, Gab, and Twitter. Bitcoin public address: bc1qvq4hgnx3eu09e0m2kk5uanxnm8ljfmpefwhawv.