Apathy In America

The election results for the Los Angeles Mayor was totally astounding to me. Not because white man James Hahn (son of long time Los Angeles Councilman Kenny Hahn) lost to Hispanic Antonio Villaraigosa. No, that wasn't the surprise. In fact a Hispanic should have won years ago, but didn't! No, the surprise was the vote count:

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Villaraigosa had 258,405 votes, or 59 percent, to 182,582 votes, or 41 percent, for Hahn.

What is so surprising about this? The population of Los Angeles is over 3,700,000 and there are about 1,450,000 registered voters. This means 1 million people didn't vote for the Mayor of their own city!

Only 1/3 of the registered voters participated in government and 2/3 -- or the majority -- stayed home, or so it would seem.

This is a regular pattern and it didn't take a bunch of terrorists threatening people unless they boycotted the elections to keep them home like it did in Iraq. In fact 50% of the registered voters in Iraq went to the polls. Out of the 14 million registered (and 20 million were eligible) 7 million went out and actually voted, which is far better than occurs in many, if not most, U.S. elections!

A question arises: Is this apathy or protest?

It's probably a bit of both, although I'll wager apathy is the majority factor. A lot of people don't vote. We know one such person who stopped voting because first of all he was getting summons to Jury Duty, couldn't afford to go and couldn't get out of it. Jurors are often pulled from the voting registration forms. The real reason, however, was in one election all the candidates and issues this person voted for went down to a resounding defeat. We're talking President (it was Reagan, who won 49 out of 50 states) and issues such as school and water bonds all going down to defeat by a wide margin. We're not talking 60/40 margin, but more like 80/20 margin. This person just felt that literally their vote didn't count and they were so out of step with the people and thinking that it wasn't worth the effort to read the ballot and make decisions on the issues.

This person jokes that their Presidential candidate even voted for Reagan! It seemed like the only votes for their candidate came from them and the candidates mother (although, she might have voted for Reagan, too)!

This, of course, was back in the 1980's and since then school issues have cropped out (the voters turned down the building of new schools, which are now overly crowded and hopelessly behind in serving the needs of primary and secondary students) and several droughts have occurred (and the voters turned down water issues that might have prevented those problems).

Basically, this person feels they were right and the United States would be a lot better place if the school and water bonds had passed, and Reagan had never been a two term President. There wouldn't be as much outsourcing because of agreements like NFTA, thus more jobs would have stayed in America, such as those at Levi Strauss, which closed down union plants in the United States and moved operations South of the border, where labor is cheap (and then they raised the price of 401 jeans). School crowding would be less of an issue and when the water levels dropped and other states started to threaten to cut off water supplies an alternative might have been in place. But, the majority of those who voted (35% of the registered people) didn't see it that way and by a wide margin. A lot of the people in that wide margin are now out of work, thirsty and grumbling about 60 students in a room designed for 25.

That person is also able to say they aren't responsible for the situation today. The pending end of Social Security, the war in Iraq, the cost of the war in Iraq, the embarrassments caused by our involvement in Iraq, among other things, including global warming which will become a real and serious issue by 2010, but one left unresolved by the current administration. Hey, this person didn't vote for "that guy!" This person didn't vote at all! No fault and if this person had, we'd still have the same results...

But, what if all the remaining 2/3 of the registered voters voted? It is said by some, including many in Iraq, that if the remaining 7 million voters in Iraq went to the polls more Sunni candidates would have be elected and the make up of the government might be somewhat, but not totally, different.

Maybe the pending demise of Social Security in the United States will drive more people out to vote next time around, and you get a chance in less than 2 years to vote in some new people to the House of Representatives and even a few Senators. That's enough to re-shape Congress. That's enough to salvage the environment and retirement!

Boycotts only work on economic issues, not in elections. Those in Iraq and some in American can now clearly see the results of failure to get the vote out and in the case of the Los Angeles Mayor if only 100,000 additional people (another 10%) had voted the election might have ended up in a run-off or with Hahn back as Mayor or with Villaraigosa getting a mandate!

The current U.S. President hardly got a mandate. He barely made it back for another term and had Mr. Bush talked Social Security Privatization last year, he may not have made it back into office at all, but you see the candidates never really talk issues, they only say things that are nice, safe and will get them re-elected. The issue in the election was not Social Security but John Kerry's politics and war record and George Bush's military record. People bought into that and elected someone who is now talking about taking Social Security apart. How many people will regret this in 40 years when they start approaching old age and have no security whatsoever! How many of them will remember President Bush and admit they voted for him?

Apathy or protest?

Give it some thought, we have another chance to change things in 18 months, but if we continue down the path of low voter turn out and people not participating in government, no matter in which country of the World, we may wake up one morning in the United States and discover Osama bin Laden got elected as President because only 300,000 people turned out and all of them voted for him because he was a charismatic figure (which is what many people said about Ronald Reagan, a b-movie actor)...


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