Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Dark Truth About American Partisanship

When Election night happened, one of the arguments about how bad everything was going turned on the fact that the voter turnout seemed LOWER than the 2012 Election. Arguments were made about how UNPOPULAR the candidates were and how it doomed voter turnout to give Trump an Electoral College victory by eke-ing out better turnout in the mid-sized battleground states.

Thing was, it was too soon to make that claim. This election cycle had a ton of voters do so by Absentee ballot and mail-ins, which required hand counting and took longer than expected even after you threw in the time for recounts. As a result, the "low" turnout actually kept ticking upward with more ballots confirmed...

So by now, the weekend before the actual Electoral College does their thing, we do have a realistic accounting of the results for 2016.

Clinton: 65,844,594 votes
Trump: 62,979,616 votes
Other: 8,137,687 votes

Here's the thing about the 2012 turnout:

Obama: 65,915,795 votes
Romney: 60,933,504 votes
Other: 2,236,110 votes

Notice anything? The 2016 turnout kinda matched the 2012 voter turnout. Granted, Trump got about 2 million more voters than Romney did, but Romney also got a slightly higher percentage (47) of actual votes than Trump (45). The real difference was the third-party voter turnout, but that was more to the Libertarians with Johnson getting 4.4 million of those votes with a 3 percent share.

We can nitpick at the numbers and the results, but here's what I'm getting from these comparisons:

Our elections are no longer about the issues, the elections are no longer even about the candidates: the elections are about partisan turnout.

Let's face it. Both major parties had up for nomination two of the most unliked candidates in modern times. NOBODY running for the highest office had these kinds of Unfavorable numbers (polling in the mid to upper 60 percent "hate him/her"). And yet... Hillary did just about as well as the popular and charismatic Obama (who suffered the same amount of mudslinging if not more from the GOP) and the blatantly vulgar Trump did slightly better than Romney (whose biggest sin is his personality being more plastic than a Lego toy store). Trump is still polling under 50 percent on the popularity charts, which is rare for a "winner" heading into the inauguration: Even Bush the Lesser had a Favorable bump from Americans in general wishing him "good luck" at the start of his tenure.

The issues can go sit in a corner and sulk, but the polling showed solid majorities of people wanted immigration reform (that didn't involve mass arrests) and wanted Obamacare and wanted their Medicare and Social Security untouched... and they still voted for the Republicans in large enough numbers to guarantee that party held both Congress and the White House, and to assuredly DESTROY each and every one of those items on the checklist.

No, what's happening here is clear evidence of the political divisions that have polarized our nation. The voters - the citizens who are paying attention to who's doing what in government - are now so set in their voting preferences that nothing - not the issues, not hated candidates - can change their views.

Even with the all-too-obvious clues that Trump was IS a tiny-fingered vulgarian of the highest caliber - his caught-on-tape rant of "Grab Em By the Pussy" should have driven his sorry sexist ass into exile on the furthest island in the South Pacific - a solid number of "Christian" holier-than-thou "clean thoughts chum" Republicans still voted for sexual assaulter to represent them. I've noted before there were clear factions among the GOP base - the ones who cheered Trump on vs. the ones who held their noses and closed their eyes and clapped slowly in the background - and yet when the time came those "clean" and clear-headed Republicans still voted for the vulgarian because they honestly cannot cross the aisle to vote for someone else or even leave their choice blank in protest.

Even with Hillary suffering hit after hit from the media over inflated (and FAKE) "scandals" like her emails, even with her coping against a Far Left Progressive group still pining for Bernie Sanders, even with enough voters thinking to themselves "do we WANT another four years of Clinton culture warfare"... she STILL got as many votes as Obama had in 2012. Granted, she didn't get the voter percentage, but the numbers still prove the solid base of Democratic voters sided with her despite the trepidation and worry. Being hated wasn't the reason why she lost (she lost due to voter suppression in key states, and to minor shifts in voter turnout in others).

The Democrats could have run the Second Coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the voter turnout would have stayed roughly the same. The Republicans could have run the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan and the voter turnout would have stayed roughly the same.

Either party could have run a dead dog as their candidate and the voter turnout would have stayed roughly the same.

Because we're locked in now. There are so few voters who have the willpower to shift their opinions and their choices in any way to affect the outcomes. Nearly everybody has made up their mind and are rooting for THEIR team no matter the circumstances.

There may be generational differences - older voters Republican, younger voters Democrats - but that didn't mean much now and it won't until the demographic shift (I *was* hoping it'd have been now, but it's looking like 2020 or 2024) really finally kicks on. There may be voters who actually care about the issues, but they had no impact on this election cycle as they were drowned out by the partisans who place party above the people. And there's no sign of that changing for the next cycle.

Unless there's a massive economic or natural disaster. Unless the voters - especially the White majority voters - are directly impacted by the destruction of the incoming Legion of Doom. And even then I wouldn't doubt that the voters would stick by their party to the bitter end. And by then we're likely seeing a body count of innocent lives ruined by the failure of our voters to actually step back and realize "HOLY SHIT WE JUST LET A CON ARTIST INTO THE WHITE HOUSE."

We as a nation are no longer capable of choosing our candidates with any rational or sensible guidelines. Because of that, we're not going to get any genuine reforms and policy shifts we need to keep ourselves educated, or employed, or healthy, or improved.

It's no longer the elections than decide our nation's fate. It's the disasters we let happen because we've let the parties make the choices for us.

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Turnout in raw numbers was up from 2012, but as a percentage of eligible voters it was down. We have 18 million more people now than we did then.

I don't know about anyone else, but I am a partisan Democrat BECAUSE of the issues.
Presidents tend to be flawed people. Sometimes their flaws make them terrible presidents (W) and sometimes not (LBJ).
There are no Republicans who want to keep the new deal or the great society. My life and health depends on both of them right now.
A "new kind of Republican" could rise up from the swamps tomorrow and want sane foreign and domestic policy, be wildly popular, and scandal-free, and the "conservative movement" (which is a bullshit name, there's nothing conservative about them) would stomp them into the dirt for not conforming to the dogma. Kind of like what they are getting ready to do to Trump. That doesn't mean they couldn't win the presidency, as Trump has given them a new strategy: Run someone who can win by whatever means necessary and then get them to sign all of the legislation put in front of them regardless of whether it agrees with what they ran on. Well, the strategy may not be that new, as that's exactly what their plans for Romney were, but the actually winning part is new.
I don't see our political divisions as quite so damaging as our information problem. We will continue to make bad (or simply lucky) choices until we figure out how to agree that reality is in fact reality. For instance, the PPP poll that recently showed that the majority of Republicans believe straight up lies about the stock market, unemployment, and various other verifiable subjects, also showed that Trump voters don't want him to release his tax returns. So they just don't care what he did, and won't put any pressure on him to behave in an ethical or legal manner. So lies and insanity have won the day. That's what I think we need to work on, but how?

-Doug in Oakland