Yesterday was midterm election day in the United States. Just as many analysts predicted, the Republicans picked up enough seats to gain control of the Senate and retained their hold on the House of Representatives. It is a well known fact that when voter turn out is high, Democrats tend to win. But when voter turnout is low, Republicans are successful. Preventing the loss of the Senate depended on Democrats’ ability to motivate voting blocs that tend to vote Democrat to “get out the vote.”
Herein lies the problem. Midterm elections never produce as high voter turnout as in presidential elections. In his speech this morning President Obama revealed only one-third of the electorate voted yesterday. Unfortunately for the president, the groups that he needed to get to the polls, African-Americans, Latinos, Millennials and women, likely either did not cast a ballot or in the case of women, voted for the GOP; prioritizing a lackluster economy over reproductive issues. After Obama announced he would not use executive action to pass immigration reform until after the midterms, many Latinos were understandably angry at a leader they helped elect precisely because he promised immigration reform. Final numbers have yet to come in but analysts predicted many Latinos would not vote, fed up with Republicans and disappointed in Obama.
African-Americans’ lack of a presence at the polls, is less explainable. Although this morning my social media is full of discussions questioning how African-Americans could not vote, given how our grandparents and great-grandparents fought and died for the right. Others point out it is our civic duty to vote. My philosophy is that individuals who make a conscious decision not to vote lose the right to complain when they are unhappy with the results. If citizens want change they must use their voice. However for many African-Americans, the political system is broken and many contend that it was never intended to benefit us as a group in the first place. I do not dispute that. If it is proven that Latino voters refrained from voting because of Obama’s broken promise on immigration, it would seem that they have realized this too.
Yesterday a former professor of mine, a registered Independent who admits Democrats are in many ways no better than the Republicans, implored people to vote Democrat because two years of congressional control by the former, would be much worse than the latter. In this scenario the Democrats are the lesser of two evils. But from talking to Americans of all races, many are tired of having to always choose between the lesser of two evils because the line between them rapidly diminishing. The political situation in the United States today is one of anger, frustration and disappointment, transforming into apathy, indifference and pessimism. Voting for one party to prevent the other party from gaining power is no longer enough to motivate voters to show up at the polls.
And as much as I believe that citizens have a duty to use their voice, I also believe that citizens have a right not to participate in a political system that only benefits those in power, rather than the people they serve.
As much as Americans are disillusioned by the president, the Republicans do not fare much better. When the race for 2016 begins, they will have a much bigger battle to fight if they want to take the White House. The Republicans cannot continue as a major political party without expanding their base beyond older white men. Some Republicans like Rand Paul and unsuccessful California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari are reaching out to African-Americans and Latinos, keenly aware of this fact. But whether these efforts will translate into presidential votes remains to be seen.
ETA: On CNN this afternoon, John King highlighted that the Republicans’ victory yesterday does not mean the country ‘loves’ them. Majorities of Republicans in GOP controlled states want a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants and a higher minimum wage unlike many GOP lawmakers.