…If you don’t go vote in local primary elections. Right now.
This may not be quite the ludicrous sentiment it seems. Here’s why.
Primary elections have one of the smallest voter turnout of any electoral process, specifically if there aren’t during major elections cycles (i.e. the President). So who does show up? People who are extremely passionate about their politics… and often equally polarized in their opinions.
This creates a scenario where a candidate with moderate, rational views who is willing to see both sides of an issue is at a major disadvantage for winning a primary election because they don’t indulge these extreme demographics (of people who are guaranteed to actually vote). Thus, because local primary election voter turnout is low, the candidates who end up ultimately representing their party on the ballet are very rarely a genuine representative of the people, but rather champions of the limited view of the few that actually show up to vote in the primaries.
This is where the downward spiral begins. It generates extreme polarization at the polls where voters who are somewhat in that middle (which is… you know… most people) either end up casting their vote against one candidate they don’t like, vote straight ticket because it is easier than thinking, or just don’t end up voting at all because they don’t agree with either extreme. And you know what? These polarized groups depend on those in the middle to react that way.
Politicians know this, so they often have to be extreme in their promises to get elected… and then they have to be consistent in these extreme views throughout their term to stay in office. How much of your mail right now consists of political propaganda stating that “This conservative senator that is currently running didn’t vote to the extreme on this one issue, so he must be stopped before he destroys America! Visit http://www.GuessWhoIsActuallyACommunistSpy.com for more information on how awful they are!”
Because of this, both sides end up unwilling to work together on big national (or local) issues because they have to gain or maintain the approval of this tiny primary voting populace… and that’s the way this tiny voting populace prefers to keep it. It gives them unwarranted power on an international scale just because they are willing to show up at somewhere at an appropriate time. Unfortunately, this means there can be no compromise on finding a rational middle ground that is a more reasonable representation of the ideals of the general population.
National news stations know this to be true as well, and have evolved into pandering to extreme demographics because it earns more viewership, which brings in more advertising dollars. This biased view of political news creates even more extremely polarized people, who are also more likely to vote… Meaning this problem is only going to get worse.
General apathy, lack of information, and “I’m too busy for democracy” has allowed extreme views to rise to authority… and, really, they’re all pretty terrible excuses for letting democracy fail. Spend an hour Googling your local candidates – be it senator, judge, or anyone else – because their job is important and it will directly impact you more than the current SportsBall game or the newest episode of Zombie Prison Hero Show. And then actually show up to vote in the primary elections.
If extremely polarized views still win the day, then great; at least they are a fair representation of what people actually want. But stop being lazy. Stop making excuses. And vote in the most underrated, but often most important, part of democracy. I’m not exposing some grand secret by letting you know that your vote actually does matter, particularly in a primary, even more so at a local level.
And guess what! The state even makes it easy on you. In Texas, you can vote at ANY polling station in your county (on your way to work, headed home, or even when just out getting tacos) during early voting (February 16 – February 26, 2016). Or you can wait until the last minute and vote on March 1 at your designated polling station, which can be found at http://www.votetexas.gov/voting/where/ (along with other pertinent voting information).
Either way, you get a pretty rad sticker and earn the right to complain if things don’t turn out the way you think they should. But… you might be surprised at how much of a difference a small group of people can make.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Above image borrowed from The Economist article available at http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21689543-marvel-jaw-dropping-spectacle-then-worry-american-politics-has-taken-dangerous