Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Vote: Last Night's Real Loser

Everyone around the Internet and blogosphere is doing the requisite naval gazing, election post mortum. But I have a different take. I wish to give the eulogy to the vote. Because that's really who lost last night. It wasn't a candidate. It wasn't an issue. It wasn't common core. It wasn't teachers unions. It wasn't Republicans. It wasn't Democrats. It was all of us. Because so few of us actually voted.

And when people don't vote, Republicans win. When lots of people vote, Democrats win. It's not really rocket science.

Yes, Republicans now dominate state government in Ohio to a degree never seen. But when only 40% of Ohioans vote in districts that are so gerrymandered that this result could have been easily predicted in 2011, does it really mean Ohioans love them some Republican? If I'm a Republican, sure I'm happy. But I'm also wary. Because I only won with 25% of the people who are eligible to vote.

So if I go too far with a "mandate", look out in 2016. Because far more people will be voting in a presidential year, which will favor Democrats. Remember in Barack Obama's two elections, 5.8 million Ohioans voted for him. In John Kasich's two elections, 3.8 million did.

If I'm a Democrat (after I'm done licking wounds), I look in the mirror. How can an operation that produced record turnout during two presidential cycles only get 40% -- a record low -- in this cycle? Sure, the top of the ticket didn't help. But let's face it, Ohioans just a couple years ago were ready to vote for a ham sandwich over Gov. John Kasich. And until Ed Fitzgerald's driver's license fracas, even Fitzgerald was leading in some polls.

Democrats, though, let the narrative become whether their candidate had a driver's license, not whether their candidate would cut $515 million from schools, create shadowy economic development groups with public money or act like a total jerk, calling police officers "idiots." John Kasich was hardly invincible, but hey, at least he had a driver's license, right? Ultimately, though, it was the failure to drive turnout that cost Democrats. Forty percent ain't gonna cut it. Not for a party that needs a diverse electorate to be successful.

It's days like this when I start wondering, "What if everyone voted?" Wouldn't the fringe elements be driven from both parties? Wouldn't it mean that both parties would have to work together? Wouldn't it mean that crazy bad ideas would never have the oxygen to breathe? Wouldn't it mean that the voice of the people, rather than the voices of less that a quarter of the people, would be heard?

I don't know. Seems to me like having everyone vote would result in better policy, better government, better politics, and a better, more unified country.

Until that happens, though, I think I'll just stick to hunting unicorns. Seems like I'll have a better chance of seeing one of those than a real exercise of the voting franchise.

And for that, I'm really sad.