Once you run the numbers, it’s easy to understand how our political system got so messed up. Or at least why so many of us think things are so messed up.
Granted, this reasoning is based on some back-of-the napkin arithmetic, but the resulting numbers do help clarify the problem and propose the solution. Here goes:
- The common denominator is the population of the United States, which is approximately 325 million.
- Among us, there are 225 million people who are eligible to vote, 18 years of age or older.
- Of those eligible, a record 200 million have registered to vote.
- BUT, of those registered, only 126 million voted in the 2016 presidential election. (This represents 55 percent of eligible voters — the lowest turnout in 20 years. Remarkably, 2008 marked the highest turnout, at just 64 percent.)
From this point on, the numerators get a bit subjective:
For ease of calculation, let’s say voters were split 50/50 between those who lean conservative and/or identify as Republican and those who lean liberal and/or identify as Democrat. (This includes the leaning of registered Independents.)
Now let’s respectfully label half of the conservative types as evangelicals, rednecks and “deplorables” who vote strictly partyline; and whose primary source of information comes from radio blowhards and hate-mongers.
And, let’s respectfully label half of the liberals as smug, bleeding-heart urbanites who also vote strictly partyline; and whose primary source of information comes from Hollywood award shows’ acceptance speeches.
The point being, any hope of effectively recalibrating the political future of the country rests in the voting hands of the 63 million eligible, registered, open-minded individuals who represent just 20 percent – one person for every five — of the country’s total population.
No wonder it seems everyone is frustrated: The job approval rating of President Trump hovers around 35 percent and for congress around 24 percent. Plus, 61 percent of Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction.
This a huge problem, but one that’s not insurmountable.
There is an optimistic, alternative calculus: A greater number of the country’s electorate must challenge themselves to quit complaining, venture outside their echo chambers and instead aspire to have: 1) the patience to evaluate what candidates are saying and promising (i.e., Promises without price tags is simply pandering); 2) the curiosity and humility to become true knowledge seekers. (For cynics who don’t believe any objective news sources exist, commit to studying both sides, i.e., watch Fox and CNN; or better still, read a newspaper like the New York Times for serious journalism); and, then and only then, take advantage of (not for granted) the right and privilege to vote.