(Yawn) Election in the Two-Bit Democracy
November 9, 2002
By Doug Pibel
Two bits. That's a quarter, right? That is, after all, the
percentage of eligible voters who voted for GW Bush for president.
Last Tuesday, it wasn't even worth a quarter. The figure
I see is 39% turnout. Which means that the great Republican
landslide was decided by fewer than 20% of the people who
could have had a say.
Just in terms of grade-school civics, this is reprehensible.
Then again, I could just keep my mouth shut about it. It
gives me a lot of power when I get to have my vote count for
me and two people who didn't vote.
Which would be fine, but for one thing: Rush Limbaugh counts
for more than I do. It's fun, and satisfying in the same way
that pouring salt on a slug is satisfying, to sneer at Rush.
He's a blowhard, and a liar.
But he's also a motivator. There really are people who really
believe what he says. I've been on a couple of long drives
recently and, masochist that I am, found myself scanning across
the AM dial. There's a flock of hate radio people out there,
and they are not wanting for callers.
They're true believers. They're motivated. They're the only
thing standing between Western civilization and the horrors
of rampant liberalism. They're not worried about commies any
more. It's the liberals who are gonna getcha now. They'll
come in, take your guns, and force you to have an abortion,
even if you're not female.
Which would all be well and good - there's nothing wrong
with providing a distraction for the questionably competent
- but for one thing: Thirty-nine percent turnout.
Here's how it shakes out. About 10% of the population directly
benefits from the predatory principles of the Republican party.
They vote in high numbers, and it makes sense for them to
do so. They're voting their self-interest.
Then there's the Christian right, which controls a small,
but significant number of votes. I mean the real, single-issue,
bleating to the sacrifice Christian right; the ones who would
vote to have their feet cut off, if it meant banning abortion.
Those two constituencies don't comprise 20% of the electorate,
especially considering that they can turn out high numbers,
but no group gets 100% turnout.
Hate radio puts them over the top. The wonder of it is this:
although hate radio listeners include plenty of knee-jerk
anti- choice people, they also include many people for whom
a Republican vote is a matter of frank, undeniable voting
against self-interest. They're frustrated, (mostly) white,
(mostly) low- educated types. They're the ones who lose jobs
when, as it inevitably does, the economy tanks under the tender
ministrations of Republicans. But they are told, over and
over, until it becomes a form of hypnosis, that the libruls
are comin' ta git 'em.
There's a flip side. Last Tuesday's election really did represent
the one and only chance to put the brakes on a truly destructive
juggernaut. Opinion polls, not to mention common sense, say
that the American public stands foursquare against almost
everything the Bush regime stands for. The exception requiring
that "almost" is taxes, but the Bush regime is only against
taxes on the wealthy. Americans, regardless of their income,
stand foursquare against taxes on themselves. Everyone else
should be taxed more.
But there we were, with an opportunity to just say no to
a regime promising endless war, deficit spending, environmental
degradation, and the worst economy since, well, the last Bush.
All of which inspired Americans, in droves, to sit on their
butts. Let me say it again, the other way: Sixty-one percent
of eligible voters exercised their inalienable right to do
Now, I know that nobody reading this failed to vote. I'm
preaching to the choir. But use this next time you run across
somebody who's above the fray, who's simply not going to get
dirty in the messy business of politics. Have them do a little
Tell them to spend just 15 minutes listening to the hate
radio station of their choice. If they are at all sane, they
will not be able to listen for that long without saying, to
one of the callers, "You mouth-breathing moron! You don't
know. . .."
Then they need to consider this: when they politely decline
to vote, they've handed that mouth-breathing moron six votes.
He gets three for having the gumption to make that long trip
to the polls; he gets the three the non-voter could have had.