The Demoralization of the American Voter and the Activation of the Non-Vote: Opportunity in Crisis

At The Plum Line, Greg Sargent reports on a poll that demonstrates the demoralizing effect of the Democratic congressional majority on Democratic voters:
A new national poll finds that fully one third of Democratic voters say that they’re “less likely” to vote in 2010 if Congress doesn’t pass a public option, underscoring the possibility that dropping the provision seriously risks dampening the Dem base’s enthusiasm . . . these numbers are a reminder of just how dispirited the Dem base is by the party’s inability to leverage their comfortable majority in support of an agenda built on core liberal priorities.
The demoralization and disappointment of liberals and progressives in the face of the Obama administration and ruling Democratic majority is a function of the false belief among those very same liberals and progressives that the Democratic Party supports "an agenda built on core liberal principles." This self-delusion is no less absurd than the conservative and libertarian conviction that the Republican Party supports an agenda built on core conservative principles. If liberals and progressives desire to see support for a liberal-progressive agenda in government, the appropriate response is not to cease voting, but rather to cease voting for Democrats, and instead support third party and independent liberal and progressive challengers to Democratic candidates for office. Similarly, if conservatives and libertarians desire to see support for a conservative-libertarian agenda in government, they must cease supporting Republicans, who have done more to undermine the public trust in conservative-libertarian principles than any Democrat.

Perhaps some might respond that third party and independent candidates for office stand no chance of winning any election, and hence reason that it is better not to vote than vote Republican or Democrat. Arguably, the majority of American voters reason this way. The American voter's history of apathy in the face of the false choice between Republicans and Democrats is demonstrated by consistently low voter turnout in US elections. But the crisis of representative government represented by consistently low voter turnout is a potential opportunity from the perspective of independent and third party strategy. In a post on the election of Annise Parker as mayor of Houston, Romulus writes at The Whig:
Houston voters chose Annise Parker to replace the outgoing Bill White as the next mayor of the fourth-largest U.S. city by population. Parker won 53.6 percent of ballots according to Harris County election data, with a 16.5% voter turnout. Sixteen point five percent? That's criminal! That's disgusting. It means that 8.84% of Houston's registered voters chose the winner. Talk about voter apathy. [Emphasis added.]
In an election with such low voter turnout, which is not rare in the United States, a third party or independent candidate for office who managed to garner the support of just one in ten registered voters would have easily defeated both Parker and her duopolist rival. The question remains, how can an independent or third party campaign activate non-voters?


Ross Levin said...

Going door to door. Spending more time on fundraising (seriously) so that they can afford to go door to door and send out mailings and meet people in person. That's my $.02.

Samuel Wilson said...

That turnout figure from Houston sort of undercuts the good-news angle of the mayor-elect being gay, which is the story I saw in the paper. I hope there isn't a correlation between her win and the poor turnout, but you never know.