Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Wagging the dog in the 2016 election

Just 9% of Americans voted in the primaries this year, at least, according to the New York Times. They put together a nice interactive chart to show how many people voted and the demographics of the same. You can view it here.

Of 324 million people, 103 million cannot vote. 88 million eligible voters do not vote at all. 73 million did not vote in the primaries, but are likely to vote in the general election this year. The remaining 60 million voters did vote in the primaries. That means that 161 million people that could have voted in the primaries did not. Of those 60 million voters that did vote in the primaries, only 9% of them voted for either Clinton or Trump.

What I find so interesting is that the mainstream media doesn't really put this reality into perspective. Watch any news show and what we see is a sort of manufactured consensus. The pundits, the hosts and the interviewers will all act as if the majority of Americans are happy with the choices that will be presented to us in November, when nothing could be further from the truth.

A clear and convincing majority of Americans have a negative view of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A clear majority do not even trust Clinton or Trump. Yet, if you watched the convention coverage on TV for either major party, news anchors seem to be celebrating as if "America" made the right choice in nominating a woman for the Democrats and a billionaire outsider businessman for the Republicans. In effect, the news media is acting more like a cheerleader than an unbiased source of information I can use to make an informed decision when I vote this November.

Missing from the broader context is all the people who wanted to vote in the primaries, but could not. Also missing from the story is all the machinations that worked against other candidates from securing the nomination. On the Democrat side, there are numerous allegations of "irregularities" ranging from voter purges, closed polling stations and even outright bribery.

On the Republican side, enormous efforts were made to sideline Trump, but he won by such a clear majority that there was no way they could hide the votes. There was talk of a brokered convention.
That didn't happen either. There were hints of conspiracies to replace him with someone else, but the fear was that if they did anything close to what the Democrats did to Bernie Sanders, they would split their vote.

WARNING: the following paragraph contains complete speculation.

Is it possible that conservatives in the several states conspired to purge voter rolls, close polling stations and otherwise create havoc for the Democrats to split their vote? Remember this meme?

Republicans have the majority of seats in statehouses and governors. They have enough power to cause real trouble for the Democrats. Isn't it interesting that none of the trouble reported by the Democrats was reported by Republicans? Maybe Republicans really wanted Hillary to win. This is not to say that because of their efforts we should support Hillary Clinton. I won't and I am not suggesting anything of the kind here. But I just thought I'd put that here for you to consider.

Okay, end of pure speculation section. I want to get back to the main point of this post. The nominations were won with a tiny fraction of all eligible voters. Many voters were excluded due to closed primaries, sure. But 88 million did not vote at all and 73 million that could have voted in the primaries will wait until the general election.

Now put this in the context of American life. Of the people that do work, many are working 2 or 3 jobs. Many are putting in longer hours. I would say that a good fraction of working Americans will have difficulty getting time off to vote in November. Maybe they will find that time with early voting. Maybe some will opt for absentee ballots. I suspect that many will not vote because they don't believe that there is a meaningful choice between Clinton and Trump. So they stay home, or leave that blank and vote down ballot.

I believe this is by design. Sure, we can have our democracy, but only if we can get to the polling station. If we can't get to the polling station, well, tough luck, right? But even if we do manage to vote, we're often presented with unappealing choices for president.

When Sanders was running, I believed that we had a meaningful choice from the usual neoliberal suspects. I wasn't thinking third party. I wasn't thinking Green. It was there in the back of my mind, but I was waiting for the convention to be over to see the results. Now I'm thinking Green Party.

The Green Party just gained ballot access to six more states by petition. In a few of those states, they collected more than twice the number of signatures needed to get Jill Stein on the ballot. That sounds a lot like the story with Bernie Sanders, where in many states, petitioners collected far more signatures than he needed. Momentum is building behind Jill Stein.

Now if we could just get her on the same stage with Clinton and Trump. All she needs is 15% in the polls to get on the stage. The debates should be open anyway, but it is what is. We must work with what we have until we have enough people like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein in office to change the rules. This is why he ran as a Democrat, not an independent.

Unity is still not a priority for the Democrats, or the Republicans. They don't want us to notice those 88 million people who did not vote. They probably don't vote because they're "apolitical" or they don't feel like they have a real choice. 88 million voters who don't like Republicans or Democrats, might just find that they have real power if they got organized and decided to vote. Those 88 million voters who do not vote are larger than the 60 million who did vote in the primaries.

When we read or watch the mainstream media, we're not supposed to notice those 88 million non-voters. The mainstream media is designed to distract us from unity as a body politic. Their biggest fear is that we should somehow unite against them in a very public way. You know, like voting for Jill Stein instead of the two clowns offered to us as our only choices.

When the media wags the dog, they are distracting us from the unity we could have. If the American people had unity, and showed up at the polls, we could vote for the greater good rather than the lesser of two evils. If the Democrats and Republicans truly believe we have nowhere else to go, then we must create that space for ourselves, because they aren't going to do it for us.

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