We all know someone who has been preaching the simplistic message, ‘Vote a straight party ticket, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with a particular candidate or think an opponent is better.’
Such an instruction, of course, is completely dissonant with contemporary mindsets. It’s an old-fashioned exhortation that harkens back to a time when everyone, instead of a minority in locales still offering the ancient practice, had the option of pulling a single lever to cast a ballot for all of a political party’s nominees all the way down the ballot.
For most voters today that merely conjures up a time when Tang was popular as a breakfast drink, chilled in an avocado-toned refrigerator.
The question is whether resistance or repulsion will turn out to be the theme of the mid-term election. Will voters choose based on ideas and solutions they support or merely in outraged opposition to the other party?
Barely half of all registered voters align with either the Democrats or the Republicans. For the now largest potential voter group in the nation, those under 35 years of age, political party identification is even lower.
Only one-quarter of all registered voters self-affiliate with each of the two major parties, both at only a point or three above an equal one-fourth share of the electorate. Nearly half, and among younger voters more than half, describe themselves as political independents. Party affinity is destined to further decrease over time as those under-35 voters move up among the age cohorts.
Parity between parties is even true when factoring in self-described independent voters and bunching them with party adherents according to their leaning toward one or the other party when forced to make the available binary choice.
The result of adding “leaners” to “believers” in determining party strength also results in parity between the two established parties. Both Democrats and Republicans top out in the mid-to-high 40s at essentially identical margin-of-error levels when combining independents with party partisans.
We really are a divided nation.
Voters have become more discerning and discriminating in the modern era, conveying lessened regard for party affiliation when casting a ballot. If they vote at all, that is.
Candidate party designation matters less and less to many, if not most, voters.
An increasing share of voters now consider themselves “independents” – even if not permitted to fully participate in the electoral system, as in D.C., unless registered with a political party. Locally dominant parties fight to keep independents disenfranchised, knowing that association and registration with parties would decline fast and further if voters were given the option without penalty.
In the District, 17 percent of all registered voters are signed-up as “non-partisan” independents despite only being allowed to vote in general elections and when doing so is a nearly pointless exercise due to winners being determined by dominant Democrats in party primaries.
As the mid-term election approaches, there is a tightening across polls between parties in voting enthusiasm and a narrowing advantage for Democrats over Republicans. The most notable divide is that, while a majority of male voters both approve of Trump and align with Republicans by a sizable margin of nearly 10 points, women are giving Democrats a more significant edge.
While demographics, and history, suggest Democrats will take control of the lower chamber of Congress this go-round, Republicans seem likely to hold or slightly increase their narrow U.S. Senate margin. Neither party should celebrate, given the public’s low esteem for both.
Until the two political parties, each in their own way, cease alienating voters by rushing further to their individual ideological extremes outside the range of acceptability for mainstream voters, the now prevalent toxic warfare most claim to lament will only worsen.
If both parties continue shedding supporters and reducing the core support either can muster, the resistance vote within each will simply be reduced to repulsion of the other.
No one wins if that happens.