Voter Antipathy and Republican Challenges

87

You wouldn’t have known it by watching the mainstream media, but this was an important election. Those who choose to make politics a big part of their concerns knew what was at stake: nothing less than the direction of the country for the next two years. But for those who view politics as something vague, polarizing, and distant, the easier choice was to stay home. And millions of Americans – many of them registered voters – did just that.

I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results. Republicans took the Senate as widely predicted, picked up at least 10 seats in the House, and turned many a blue state red, gubernatorially speaking. But one election’s positive results hardly excuse a nation very much disenfranchised from the political process. The next time around, it could easily be the Democrats celebrating.

Power to the People

When our country was forged, it was done so in a new and exciting way that broke with many European traditions. Instead of placing the government at the center of the state, the founders did something remarkable. They put the people above all else, crafting a form of government that would put to bed the aristocratic regimes of the past. The founders were excited about this grand experiment, but they knew things could easily slide back into the old ways. As they say, power corrupts.

The people can stop that corruption, but it requires participation. While the official national numbers aren’t quite in, projections in many states predict that this will be turn out to be one of the lowest voter turnouts in American history. Midterm elections are always less popular, typically getting about 45% of the eligible voting population to the polls. When that happens, though, democracy suffers.

Apathy

It’s not too tricky to understand why malaise sets in. Numerous polls showed that Americans are not just angry at the president; they’re angry at the federal government in general. People feel that no matter who they vote into office, nothing will change. The names might be different, but the results will be the same. That’s something Republicans must change if they want to invigorate their base for 2016.

It won’t be easy. While Mitch McConnell and others promised to get things done over the next two years, Republicans in Congress have to be careful. If they pass bills that put America back on the right track, they risk a repeat of the late 90s. Newt Gingrich’s Congress fulfilled their Contract with America, only to watch President Clinton get all the glory. If that happens with Obama, it makes it that much easier for Hillary Clinton to ride in on a wave of Democrat enthusiasm.

But it can be done. If Republicans can focus as much money and energy on promoting their ideas in between elections as they do during them, the American people will realize what a difference their leadership has made. When 2016 rolls around, they will want to put into office a president who will make Congress’ job that much easier. And then we can start making the big changes that will rebuild the U.S. into the great country it was always meant to be.