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Another (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 nothing.

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 experiment.

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.

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