Democratic-Republican Party Government is a Crisis of Democracy

In recent weeks, the so-called "enthusiasm gap" between likely Republican voters and likely Democratic voters has been cause for serious concern among Democratic strategists. In a post at FireDogLake, JonWalker articulates the problem faced by partisan Democrats as if it were the result of third party competition. He writes:
It is sometimes much easier to understand American elections if you look at it as a three party system instead of a two party system. While Republicans and Democrats tend to be the only two parties that win most elections, there is the informal “just stay home” third party which is often the top choice for many Americans and can end up tipping the balance in many elections. In many elections, easily one quarter or more of people who have voted at least once before will not go to the polls, a share of the vote that many parties in true multi-party democracies would envy. Tom Jensen at PPP found that the alternative choice of just staying home could cost Democrats control of the state legislature in North Carolina . . . While Jensen is only looking at North Carolina, I suspect that we are seeing almost the exact same pattern elsewhere.
I think Walker underestimates the strength and numbers of the Just Stay Home Party. Even in the "historic" presidential election of 2008, in which voter turnout was higher than it had been at any time over the previous forty years, still only 56.8% of eligible voters cast a ballot. Over 43% of eligible voters sided with the Just Stay Home Party, far exceeding the turnout for Democrat Barack Obama, who likely received votes from under 30% of eligible voters. The Just Stay Home Party isn't just "the top choice for many Americans," as Walker states. Arguably, it is the top choice for the large majority of Americans in the great majority of elections. In the 1996 presidential race there were more Americans who sided with the Just Stay Home Party than there were who cast a ballot at all! If the figures linked above are to be believed, that is. But is that really so hard to believe? And what does that say about the state of American democracy under the conditions of Democratic-Republican party government? Democratic-Republican party government is a crisis of democracy.

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