A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Voters who hate Donald Trump have had the power to stop him, but most have chosen to stay home.
The real question about this year’s electorate is how large a part of it truly seeks a confrontational authoritarian as our next president? How many people practice racism, condone violence and approve of torture? How large is the population with fascist tendencies?
In other words, what part of the American public has voted for Donald Trump?
Judging from the numbers in a recent Economist article titled “How non-voters blew it,” Trump has gathered relatively few supporters. In no state to hold a primary until now has more than 25% of Republican voters actually gone to the polls and cast a ballot. Even though Republican primary turnout is at its highest since Ronald Reagan swept into office in 1980, only about 17% of eligible Republicans have voted in the primaries so far. Trump has averaged about 38% of the vote, which translates into a little less than 6.5% of all registered Republicans. But Republicans represent only about 28% of all voters, probably a little more in the states already holding primaries. If we extrapolate these numbers across the country, we find that a mere 1.8% of all eligible voters support Donald Trump.
The one word to describe American voters in 2016, is the same one word we can use to describe them virtually every year. That word isn’t “angry” or “frustrated,” not “conservative” or “liberal.” The one word to describe American voters is “apathetic.”
Ted Cruz and John Kasich have gotten an even lower percentage of the total votes than the Donald. Hillary Clinton hasn’t gotten many more votes than Trump, as voter participation in Democratic primaries is down. If we’re using votes to measure whether any candidate is engaging the public, the answer is that none of the candidates are winning in any state or across the country, not even Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. With such low voter turnouts, we can’t proclaim anyone who has won a primary a real “winner.”
The real winners in this election season so far are not even “none of the above,” since that outcome would require people to enter voting booths and actually write those words down.
No, the real winners are the fascists like Donald Trump and the oligarchs, who represent about one tenth of one percent of the country, like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. Just as in the Germany of the late 1920s and early 1930s, the oligarchs and the fascists share many traits in common—power hungry, obsessional about control, well-funded, prone to lies and misrepresentations, ruthless.
I used to tell the kids on the Little League teams I managed that the only way to guarantee never losing is never to play. In American politics, the people are losing by not playing. Only when the electorate stays home can fascists like Donald Trump win at the polls. Only when the electorate remains uninvolved can oligarchs manage the voting patterns of legislatures. Only when the electorate prefers ignorance can oligarchs and fascists get away with filling airwaves and bandwidth with their lies.
Copyright 2016 Marc Jampole.