voter apathy

A Long Note on Political Tradition in These United States

President Barack Obama, delivers his State of the Union speech at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Charles Dharapak/AP)

By now of course we have become accustomed to the proposition that Republicans, once elected, would rather sit around. To some it actually seems a very sick idea; not only did the Speaker of the House demonstrate that Republicans conisder their job description to include going on vacation instead of actually working because, well, the most important part of the job is election and re-election, but in recent months the GOP has shown more and more willingness to simply admit that the inherent failure of government is more of a conservative goal than anything else.

Boehner and the band skipped out on gigs that might need Congressional attention, such as the Daa’ish question, the Ebola question, and the Immigration Reform question; despite their howls of rage regarding the latter, the fact of executive action occasionally arises when Congress refuses to pass a bill and the Speaker of the House calls on the President to use his executive authority. They could have skipped screeching themselves hoarse by simply sticking around and doing their jobs. Then again, the prior statement is controversial if only because it would appear that Congressional Republicans appear to believe their first, last, and only job is to win votes. Given their reluctance to undertake day-to-day Constitutional functions of Congress, such as advising and consenting to presidential appointments—or, as such, formally refusing the nomination—we ought not be surprised that the latest duty Republicans wish to shirk is sitting through an annual speech.

Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right’s mind.

“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.'”

Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one publicly pushing the idea.

Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”

Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”

(Benen)

Wait, wait, wait—sixteen years ago?

Yes. Like impeachment chatter and stonewalling, Republicans want to make refusing to hear the State of the Union Address part of their standard response to any Democratic president.

(more…)

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A Note on the Recent Self-Inflicted Disaster

Detail of cartoon by Taylor Jones, 14 November 2014, via Cagle Post.It really was, as Taylor Jones points out, rather quite stupid.

General election voter turnout for the 2014 midterms was the lowest it’s been in any election cycle since World War II, according to early projections by the United States Election Project.

Just 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots as of last Tuesday, continuing a steady decline in midterm voter participation that has spanned several decades. The results are dismal, but not surprising — participation has been dropping since the 1964 election, when voter turnout was at nearly 49 percent.

The last time voter turnout was so low during a midterm cycle was in 1942, when only 33.9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

(DelReal)

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The abysmally low turnout in last week’s midterm elections — the lowest in more than seven decades — was bad for Democrats, but it was even worse for democracy. In 43 states, less than half the eligible population bothered to vote, and no state broke 60 percent.

In the three largest states — California, Texas and New York — less than a third of the eligible population voted. New York’s turnout was a shameful 28.8 percent, the fourth-lowest in the country, despite three statewide races (including the governor) and 27 House races.

Over all, the national turnout was 36.3 percent; only the 1942 federal election had a lower participation rate at 33.9 percent. The reasons are apathy, anger and frustration at the relentlessly negative tone of the campaigns.

(The New York Times)

† † †

Despite a larger population and a contested race for an open gubernatorial seat, turnout in the state of Texas was reportedly down this year, as compared to the last mid-term election in 2010, by more than a quarter of a million votes.

That data point — a decrease of some 271,000 total voters this year — is one of several, at least anecdotal early indicators that suggest the Texas GOP’s strategy of suppressing the vote this year with polling place Photo ID restrictions seems to have worked.

(Friedman)

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DelReal, Jose A. “Voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest since WWII”. The Washington Post. 10 November 2014.

New York Times Editorial Board. “The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years”. The New York Times. 11 November 2014.

Friedman, Brad. “Texas GOP’s voter ID ploy ‘worked’: Turnout way down, provisional ballots way up”. Salon. 13 November 2014.

Image credit: Detail of cartoon by Taylor Jones, 14 November 2014, via Cagle Post.

A Lingering Question

Detail of animation by Mark Fiore, 14 November 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.

“One of the most fascinating things about this election was comparing what people actually believe in versus what or who they actually voted for. Voting against your own interests seemed to be the dominant theme in this election. Happy with your Kentucky Kynect health exchange, brought to you by Obama’s Affordable Care Act? Then you’ll definitely want to vote for Mitch McConnell so he can keep trying to dismantle Obamacare bit by bit. Huh?”

Mark Fiore

To the one, the election is over and the People have spoken. In Iowa, intelligence and basic competence are anathema; in Kansas, voters objected to the prospect of fiscal solvency; Colorado voters decided it just wasn’t a year in which the human rights of women in their state have anything to do with anyone. Voters knew, going in, what they were asking for, and what they asked for is more gridlock, melodrama, and basic uselessness of government. So, yes, the election is over, and we need to get used to it. To the other, though, a couple brief points:

• It is difficult to not focus on that sense of amazement; this is difficult since people are expected to simply shut up and move on, but history will have a hard time explaining what happened in this year-six election. Perhaps some will point to Obama, and that only makes sense if people ignore actual facts or wonder yet again about the racism question; if this was a referendum on Obama and his policies, then it’s hard to comprehend why people who like what the ACA does would vote against it. Perhaps they believed the media narratives, which make sense unto themselves but only if the audience accounts specifically for the fact that actual facts are barred from that discourse. As Rob Corddry once joked in a role as a media correspondent, “Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.” Unfortunately, it’s not simply a joke; Jim Lehrer, a titan of television journalism, agreed that it was not his job, as a reporter, to separate fact from fiction. But that’s the thing: To the one, the election is over. To the other, though, explaining what happened in any justifiable historical context requires addressing the apparent paradoxes in the outcomes, so we will continue to see such bewilderment as cartoonist Mark Fiore expresses.

• The second point is simple enough: If you choose to complain of gridlock and other governmental silliness over the next couple years, and you voted for Republicans in the 2014 midterm, then you need to shut the hell up and stop complaining about getting what you wanted. It would be one thing to leave such blatant stupidity to itself, except it seems somewhat contagious. Consider a nearly unhinged proposition: In order for President Obama to show “leadership” satisfactory to these people, he must follow the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Think about that for a moment; Obama must show leadership by not leading, unless Republicans want to skip on tough votes, in which case Obama needs to show leadership, for which Republicans intend to either sue him in court or impeach him in Congress. When it comes to What American Voters Want, this actually seems like a newly-discovered valence of absurdity. It’s one thing to say the GOP is playing politics; it’s quite another to pretend that such idiotic shenannigans are not what our Republican neighbors want. So when our conservative neighbors lament government inefficiency, the appropriate response is to tell them to shut up and stop complaining about getting what they voted for.

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Fiore, Mark. “The screw you strategy”. Daily Kos Comics. 14 November 2014.

Not What We Would Call Comforting

So here’s the score.

There is always a ripple of gratification when it emerges that one is not alone in noticing something. That is to say, as something obvious occurs and nobody else seems to notice, or else they simply do not care, there will always be a sensation of encouragement in recognizing that other people both notice and care.Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 11 November 2014.  (via Daily Kos Comics)

To wit, cartoonist Jen Sorensen.

So, yes, it is nice to know that we at This Is are not alone in the Universe; other people notice the functional contradiction. To the other, it is also a price of political liberalism: More often than not, when you’re right, there is no cause for celebration.