There's an election in a week. You might have heard about it.
Or, maybe not. Despite the plethora of campaign ads on television and dotting the side of roads and on your favored social media platforms, there are plenty of Americans who simply do not pay attention to such things. We're supposed to be the world's foremost democracy—at least, we used to be thought of that way—but we haven't acted like it for well over a hundred years.
2020 saw a voter turnout that was two-thirds of the voting-eligible population, a surprisingly high percentage—the last time the country saw more than 67% of the VEP cast votes was in 1900. Of course, the portion of the general population that was voting-eligible was, shall we say, a bit different then, so it's not an apples-to-apples measurement. But the trend has been positive from 1996 (under 52% in a presidential campaign that was not terribly competitive), so I'm hopeful that we'll get a good turnout here in 2022.
Of course, ’22 is not a presidential year. Midterms tend to draw 10-20% fewer voters. In 2018, when flipping Congress was essential to saving the world, turnout was all of 50%, the largest for a midterm election since World War I. Half.
Half!! Half of the American voting-eligible public chose not to vote in the last midterm election, and it was to that point the highest-stakes midterm election in the history of humankind. And it was an improvement!
This year's stakes are just as high if not higher. The Republican party has gone full fascist and if they regain control of Congress it is no exaggeration to say that democracy in America will be, if not irreparably destroyed, severely undermined and damaged and corrupted into a tool for autocrats. It isn't just Senators and Congressional representatives, either. Governorships, secretaries of state, every level of government is being invaded by fascist-minded candidates running as Republicans and god help us all if they win.
The Republicans are not trying to be even slightly subtle about their fear-mongering bullshitting appeal to voters who won't think critically, who are naive and malleable and can be manipulated by audacious bald-faced lies. Or more plainly, as the former president put it, “[they] love the poorly educated."
It's nothing new for Republicans to court votes by trying to terrorize their constituents into believing the opposition is some version of the devil, but in the 21st Century, that tactic has been increasingly ratcheted up to open calls for violence and we now see these malleable, manipulated, radicalized voters (or supporters, anyway) openly threaten Congresspeople, plot to kidnap and murder governors, intimidate voters at ballot boxes, and invade the home of the Speaker of the House and bludgeon her husband with a hammer and none of it is shocking.
Yet, people will choose not to vote. Worse still, others will choose to vote and base their votes on propaganda that bears little resemblance to facts. The longtime Republican strategy has been and continues to be—now on steroids, if you will—discourage/suppress voting to keep turnout as low as possible, because they know their base of manipulated malleables is small. If more than 50-55% of the VEP shows up, they believe they have no chance at all, and rightly so in all probability.
So scare the public. "Flood the zone with shit," as Steve Bannon put it. Confuse people. Lie to them. Intimidate them. Terrorize them. Keep them dumb, keep them frightened, keep them ignorant, and above all keep them from voting. Except the crazies, them the R's need to win.
In the years leading up to the Civil War, there was a political party that proudly called themselves the "Know-Nothings." Those xenophobic bigots were geniuses compared to the rubes recruited to and targeted by the modern Republican party. Not only do they know nothing, the party is doing all it can to keep them ignorant long enough to give its candidates enough power to make the will of the people and constitutional principles even more utterly irrelevant than the corrupt Supreme Court has already made them.
They. Must. Be. Stopped.
I've already voted; my ballot was relatively short and each of the races had an obvious positive choice and an obvious threat. It was easy. Plus, I live in Washington state, where voting is perhaps simpler than in any other state with a 100% mail-in system and no party registration (that latter point is a bone of contention for me, but I fully support the all-mail balloting). It took all of five minutes and I dropped the ballot at a collection box at the nearby public library. But so, so many people won't bother to do the same, even in easy-as-pie WA.
Please, whatever state you live in, assuming you're an American eligible to vote, do it. Cast your ballot. But think about it first.
People dissatisfied with issue X and therefore voting against incumbents, what's your logic?
You folks that are telling pollsters that gas prices are influencing your vote? Think about it. Why are gas prices high? What are you expecting whomever you vote for to do about it? What has that bloc already attempted, what has that bloc already prevented, what actions will they take to affect the issue? Every Republican in congress voted against the measure passed by the House that would have addressed high fuel prices. Every Republican senator united to kill the bill in their chamber. Who do you think is going to help you here?
More concerned with inflation generally? Well, why do we have inflation? What will each bloc try to do about it? The Republicans have openly avowed to do everything they can to destroy the economy in order to kill social security, including forcing the United States to default on its debts and throw the global financial system into chaos. Will that help you?
Are you worried about crime? As noted above, Republicans are openly encouraging violent crime. How do you think your candidate of choice will address the issue? "Tough on crime" as a political slogan has translated into anti-liberty, pro-incarceration, police-can-do-no-wrong policies rooted in racism and brutality; rather than "tough on crime," those policies might more accurately be described as "crime is OK so long as you're not poor and/or brown, which in and of itself we will treat as crime."
Think it through. Use your head. Question all the slogans, evaluate your source of news, examine your priorities.
Then vote. Let's shoot for at least 60% this time, shall we?