Tuesday, November 06, 2012

FINALLY! (Non-voters Get Polled)

The lyrics to the Barry Manilow song Looks Like We Made It are running laps around my brain right now.
Normally, I'd say the silly season is over: Mitt Romney has lost, we've shed the nation of the ugly spectre of Michele Bachmann, Joe Walsh and Allen West, and sanity finally seems to be settling in.
I fear, however, that the Republicans are determined to do their level best to make silly season a four year cycle, an endless morally bereft counterpoint to governance. This is what "death throes" look like.
This is the denouement of conservatism, the end of the innocence of people who are frustrated that their political positions are so woefully out of touch with mainstream America. As they lose what they perceived to be a slam dunk, they begin to realize that their agenda-- banning abortion, lowering taxes, cutting services-- is untenable in a civilized nation.
Effectively, 2008 (maybe even 2006, and if you really want to look at the seed, Howard Dean in 2004) saw the birth of a new liberal movement in America.
There is, however, an interesting bit of information to pass along for 2016, if anyone cares to read it:

US non-voters are younger, less educated and would back Obama according to new research which looks at the sizable minority who either are unable to vote or choose not to.

The findings by the Pew Research Center show that around half of non-voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic whilst only 27% identify as Republicans or lean Republican. Obama is first choice for non-voters with 59% choosing the US president and 24% choosing Romney.

Findings from the research also try to build a picture of a non-voter. According to the results non-voters are younger, less educated and less affluent. A mere 13% of non-voters are college graduates in comparison to 38% of likely voters. Also more than a third of non-voters are under the age of 30 and only 14% have family incomes of $75,000 or more. Likely voters are older and more affluent - just 13% of likely voters are under the age of 30 and 33% have family incomes of $75,000 or more.

Pew Research also found that non-voters are also more likely to be unmarried - nearly two-thirds of non-voters are unmarried compared with 40% of likely voters. Non-voters are also more likely to be Hispanic (21%) - this is three times the percentage of Hispanics among likely voters.

(original poll research here)

The question is, why aren't the Democrats (or the Greens or Working Families Party) doing more to energize this bloc of voters?

Imagine, if you will, how much different the results of this week election would be if even half of those who feel disenfranchised were to vote? We wouldn't be listening to a dummied up horse race called by people who are bending over backwards to placate the emptiest cans on the cart.

The smart money is, in order to energize this bloc, that the Democrats need to run at least one Hispanic at the top of the ticket in 2016. A young Hispanic would be even better. Those twins down in Texas, I'm thinking (that would make an intriguing ticket, twin brothers.)

While the study doesn't really investigate the whys of this phenomenon, we can infer some things from the data:

1) The conservative trope of shouting about the evils of liberalism from the rooftops is damned effective. Who wants to become politically aware in a nation where one is perceived as the enemy.

2) The conservative trope of blaming immigration for the ills of the nation is effective, too (the Latino portion of non-voters is triple the Latino proportion of voters) but surprisingly not as effective as they would believe.

3) Clearly, the implications of these two bits of information comes down to whether a single vote, or even blocs of votes, count. If you feel individually disenfranchised, if you feel that money buys politicians -- even a President who runs as an agent of change -- then why would you exercise your vote?

It's this last, the feeling that America has become effectively a banana republic run by an oligarchy of the wealthy who service the needs of the wealthier, that Occupy Wall Street and even the Teabaggers speak to. How can it not be frustrating to watch the news and think that whatever you do, no one will listen to you?

There is a significant liberal population out there, and the danger is, we may disillusion these people and allow them to fall to the Dark Side of conservatism. Young people are idealistic, and if the 60s taught us anything, it taught us that capturing that energy, letting people feel as if they make a difference, can generate the kinds of change we want to see.

Coupling that with the ongoing death throes of neoconservatism and the repudiation of all things Randian, we could achieve what many believe is impossible: a radical re-write of American society, pulling it back from the precipice of the cliff of collapse, and ushering in a golden age of humanistic thought.

We just have to put up the fight for them to join in.