Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why Voting Matters...I think

It's difficult to understand the causes and effects of a divided legislature as the factors that generate such a division are manifold. If one were to assume that, as a democracy, the makeup and ideologies of political representatives in Congress are a mirror of the makeup and ideologies of the American people, this would be incorrect. This is based on the supposition that everyone who is allowed to participate in the political process does, namely voting.

Unfortunately this is not the case. Indeed most Americans who are eligible to vote -- being 18 and older and a citizen -- do not vote. In fact, a significant minority of registered American voters (those eligible to vote and are able to do so because they've bothered to register) do not bother to vote. In other words, the American political process of representative government is controlled by a minority of Americas -- that is, those who bother to register and then to cast their ballots.

And the trend toward non-participation in the democratic process is increasing, meaning the minority of Americans that do vote are gaining in influence simply because they bother to cast a ballot and have their voices heard.

The US Census Bureau recently released a study that documents this trend in declining participating in voting from 1978 to 2014. 

Congressional elections are defined in this study as those elections that are between presidential elections. Note how few citizens (those eligible to vote, registered or not) bother to vote. With one exception, always below 50%.

More people bother to vote during presidential election years -- although one cannot call a participation rate in the 60% range significant -- but only a minority can get up off the couch during non-presidential election years.

White voters are more likely to have their voices heard than non-white voters.

And older Americans, especially Baby-Boomers, are more active in voting than any other age group, which can go far in explaining why the American Congress looks the way it does.

What does this all mean? It means that only those American who are more politically savvy, those that understand the power and influence of the voting process, vote. The majority of these voters are older white American baby-boomers. And this can also explain why our political parties are increasingly becoming further and further polarized: as fewer voices are being heard, only those who are most ardent in their politics -- meaning toward a political pole on the political continuum, rather than being in the political center -- will determine who gets elected. That is why, increasingly, we see fewer and fewer political centrists in Congress.

The following video gives a visual representation of this process. It is quite fascinating.

Remember, apathy (as in voter apathy) is a value and that value is reflected in the polls and as well the makeup of Congress. When fewer and fewer Americans vote, we get what we deserve: our present Congress -- perhaps the most inept since the founding of the Republic. The only time I can think when the US Congress was this polarized was right before the Civil War. I'm not saying that the US is on the brink of Civil War, hardly. But widespread and systemic non-participation in the democratic processes by wide swaths of Americans generates its own dynamic.

An interesting time to be alive. 

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Emphatic language can be couched in kind words. Let's all be adults here and use our words constructively.