In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a cry went up from many civil rights and anti-war protestors that what this country needed was more participatory democracy. Not unlike the Occupy Wall Street protestors today, the mood then in the massive protests of that era, was that the rich and powerful were dominating virtually all political and social events that occurred. The “little guy” seldom had a voice in the decisions being made such as drafting young men and sending them off to die in some jungle hell-hole like Viet-Nam or desegregating the formal segregation apparatus that existed in the South or the informal one that was frequently evident in the North. The only problem as it later turned out, was that nobody asked the “little guy” if he or she really wanted to participate in the Government’s decision- making processes.
Some interesting statistics to further illustrate this point. The 2008 election brought a record turn-out of voters to the the polls, essentially because it was the first time a black man had a real shot at being President. Out of an estimated 233 million eligible voters in the U.S., an estimated 131 million people actually voted. Hence in a record turn-out election, less than 60% of people registered their vote, while more than a 100 million that could have voted, just couldn’t be bothered to show up at the polls. It gets worse in a non-pesidential election. In 2010, despite all the hoopla about President Obama’s policies, only 37% of the eligible electorate actually voted. I think there were more votes cast for the next American Idol than for the next Congress. Then we wonder why Congress has such low approval ratings.
The vote in earlier times was considered a sacred right and higher numbers of people voted in the 19th and early 20th centuries when it was much more difficult to get to the polls. Blacks were often denied the right to vote in the South through devices such as poll taxes and voter ID requirements. Many poor blacks an even a few whites didn’t have the money to pay the poll tax or couldn’t produce the proper identification. Interestingly, today there is a big push on in many states (mainly those controlled by Republican governors and state legislatures) to mandate picture ID as a requirement for voting, thereby calculating that poor people who generally vote Democratic will lack such ID and not be able to vote.
The dirty little secret about our voting process is that the poor and lower middle classes generally don’t vote, while the more affluent and upper classes generally turn out in large numbers. So do seniors. I mean it’s not like seniors have anything better to do with their time. So those people that benefit most from Democratic policies vote in small numbers, while those that benefit most from Republican policies turn out in heavy numbers. If it were an equal playing field, the GOP would probably cease to exist. Of course our dysfunctional voting system is a big turnoff for many. As Al Gore found out in 2000, it’s not the people that elect a President but the electoral college. We have an antiquated system that would make any third or fourth world country blush in shame, as Gore found out in 2000 when he was elected President but not allowed to enter the Oval Office.
I believe there is a general feeling among the 40%-60% of people that are non-voters, as to why bother since both parties consist primarily of greedy, power hungry politicians, and that little will really change or be different no matter which party gets elected. To a large extent that is often the case. However, by taking that stance it allows ideologues and fanatics on both the hard right and far left to dominate the political process which further poisons the political well, and creates a system that that is more and more being driven by extremists, with a shrinking number of moderates or middle-of-the-road believers. And there is one issue in this campaign that could be a game-changer not only for the U.S., but also the world at-large. That issue is Iran.
Iran, which is basically a terrorist and despotic state ruled by fanatical Islamists, is feverishly working to develop nuclear weapons of mass destruction. It is estimated that within a year Iran will have nuclear weapons unless action is taken to stop them. We and many European countries have employed economic sanctions against Iran but they appear to have little effect. The fear is that since Iran’s hatred of Israel (and us by proxy since we are Israel’s largest ally and supporter) is like a bottomless pit, the fanatical mullahs that rule that country will one day actually use those nuclear weapons against Israel, if not us too. Israel has threatened to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, but if they do it will turn the world upside down. Iran would almost certainly retaliate, and the Mid-East would be aflame. The price of oil would shoot thru $200 a barrel and never look back. Five dollar a gallon gas would be the good old days as the price at the pump would skyrocket to $10-$15 a gallon. Iran and its proxies would likely rain down missiles on Israel and a major war could be underway. Overnight the world economies and stock markets including ours, would go into a tailspin that would make the current recession look like a tiptoe thru the tulips. You think those people that are more focused on the Kardashians or American Idol than the current political scene will take notice then.
Both Pres. Obama and Mitt Romney, his likely opponent, have vowed not to let Iran acquire nuclear weapons, but only military action will stop them, and the scenario I painted above would likely happen if we bombed their facilities instead of Israel. As late as 1938, if France had intervened in the Nazi rearmament of Germany, Hitler would have fallen as well as his evil Nazi regime. But France did nothing, and as a result, 60 million people died in Europe during WWII. It will be interesting to see what the next President does regarding Iran’s nuclear threat, don’t you think?