It’s the Turnout, Stupid!

Do references to “President” Trump make you wonder how we ended up with a Congress and an Administration so wildly at odds with what survey research tells us the majority of Americans want?

This paragraph from a recent Vox article really says it all:

A general poll doesn’t reflect voters very much anymore. A general poll would have had Donald Trump losing substantially and the Democrats winning the House. About 45 percent of people in general polls don’t vote at all. What you saw in the election was that Republican voters came out at a very high rate. They got high turnout from non-minority people from small towns.

There are multiple reasons people fail to vote. There is, of course, deliberate suppression via “Voter ID” laws , restrictions of early voting periods and purposely inconvenient placement of polling places.

Gerrymandering, as I have pointed out numerous times before, is a major disincentive; why go to the polls when the overwhelming  number of contests aren’t really contested?

And of course, there are the holdover mechanisms from days when transportation and communication technologies were very different–state, rather than national control of everything from registration to the hours the polls are open, voting on a Tuesday, when most of us have to work, rather than on a weekend or a day designated as a national holiday, etc.

The Vox paragraph illustrates the repeated and frustrating phenomenon of widespread public antagonism to proposed legislation that nevertheless passes easily, or support for measures that repeatedly fail. If vote totals equaled poll results–that is, if everyone who responded to an opinion survey voted–our political environment would be dramatically different.

Americans being who we are, we are extremely unlikely to require voting, as they do in Australia. (Those who fail to cast a ballot pay a fine.) We can’t even pass measures to make voting easier. I personally favor “vote by mail” systems like the ones in Oregon and Washington State; thay save taxpayer dollars, deter (already minuscule) voter fraud, and increase turnout. They also give voters time to research ballot issues in order to cast informed votes. (Informed votes! What a thought….)

If the millions of Americans who have been energized (okay, enraged) by Trump’s election want to really turn things around, the single most important thing they can do is register people who have not previously voted, and follow up by doing whatever it takes to get them to cast ballots.

Voter ID laws a problem? Be sure everyone you register has ID. Polls and times inconvenient? Help them vote early or drive them to their polling place.

Gerrymandering a disincentive? First make sure that someone is opposing every incumbent, no matter how lopsided the district, and then help people who haven’t previously voted get to the polls. Those gerrymandered district lines are based upon prior turnout statistics; on how people who voted in that district previously cast their ballots. If even half of those who have been non-voters started going to the polls, a lot of so-called “safe” districts wouldn’t be so safe.

Not voting, it turns out, is a vote for the status quo. There are a lot of Americans who are cynical and dissatisfied with the status quo who don’t realize that the plutocrats and autocrats they criticize are enabled by–and counting on– their continued lack of involvement.

If everyone who has found his or her inner activist would pledge to find and register three to five people who haven’t previously voted, and do what it takes to get them to the polls, it would change America.


  1. Two quick thoughts to consider. Early voting bothers me when, according to many studies (oft quoted, rarely cited) suggest most people don’t start paying attention until well after early voting starts. I have never understood the effort to push more people to register and vote. My top priority is informed voters. If someone must be begged to register and cajoled to vote, what does the vote mean. I suppose it is a way to get the vote count up but it does nothing for voter awareness. I have always wondered if people who work the “get out the vote” programs will let people voting the ‘wrong way’ get on the bus.

  2. As a worker in a manufacturing plant, what I noticed was that our white male majority work-force is heavily influenced by NRA mobilization to prevent SCOTUS appointments threatening their right to be heavily armed. I was amazed at the number of those who told me they had voted early, to insure overtime or other hindrances didn’t prevent their lives voting. It appears that NRA mobilization was very successful in getting out the white male (and female) pro-gun working class vote.

  3. I love the Australia requirement to vote or be fined. We should make voting more convenient and permit vote by mail for everyone. If we expect some people to lay their lives on the line on police forces, fire departments, and in the military and intelligence agencies, we can expect people to do their civic duty to vote.

  4. Three great posts already. Ken; maybe early voting or required voting would “push” people to begin paying attention to something on the news other than sports scores and celebrity gossip. I am still amazed at the number of people I know who voted for Trump knowing nothing of his racist, bigoted threats or his highly questionable public past for 30 years.

    Robert; those reasons for voting early you listed prove they paid no attention to campaigns or candidates, simply wanted to maintain the status quo regarding 1 or 2 issues which they believed to be vital to sustain their personal issues. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” is NOT the basis for the 2nd Amendment but does support the NRA.

    Nancy Papas; I’m with you regarding required voting (whether early, mail-in or at the polls on one designated day). We all either benefit or are punished by the results of every election so attention and action to protect and preserve our rights or to change them should require personal attention and action.

    Last night’s “speech” by Trump appeared to me and to Eugene Robinson as lacking substance. I was glad to see he stated that comment; proving I had not imagined it. It was unTrumplike in content and mood except for a few blatant lies and his lengthy tirade against the ACA. I’m sure his ego was crushed by the record breaking applause and standing ovation for the widow of the Navy SEAL whose death he caused by ignoring all common sense safety issues in a war situation. The poor man certainly needs his FOURTH vacation weekend in Florida after less than six weeks…at our tax expense in his THIRD White House location…where a helipad is being constructed for his comfort. How can we possible survive as a nation for the next three years and ten months when less than six WEEKS has been intolerable and traumatic?

  5. Do we really believe that most Republican politicians care what “most Americans” want?

  6. Unfortunately, there is a flaw in your theory. Activism seeks purity. And that will never be found on the left. The voters on the right seemed to have figured out the simple rule of politics: winning is the only thing. The left gets caught up in so many ridiculous arguments that it gets distracted from what the goal is. Saturday’s DNC vote is the perfect example. Are the difference between the two top vote getters all that different? No. Period. Because the point of comparison is Trump not each other. On Sunday, the losing side was quick to pout and to threaten the ‘establishment wing of the DNC’ (whatever that is). So I am not surprised that the left can’t get it together at the ballot box – they never will as long as they seek ideological purity and avoid building the uncomfortable coalitions that are required to win any office.


    Jim Wright lays it on the line (warning NSFW langwidge). When has Drumpf ever laid out a coherent plan to do anything? Generalities has been his specialty since forever. Just trust him.

    Democrats need to decide they will fight dirty or we keep losing. Winning is the only thing. You can’t govern w/o the ring.

  8. TLentych,

    “Unfortunately, there is a flaw in your theory. Activism seeks purity. And that will never be found on the left.

    Are you a carpenter? Nothing like “hitting the nail on the head.”

  9. “Activism seeks purity.” Tell that to the recent victims of violence by “activists” in action; causing destruction and too often, death with their “activism”. What and where is there “purity” in the outcome? Where did you find that quote or did you think of it on your own? Sounds like something resulting from a religious service at the First Church of Cannabis here in Indianapolis.

    As for the DNC election result; I believe (though I doubt it will ever be admitted) that the result of “just happening” to elect the Hispanic candidate was a political tactic. And, yes, I do believe as you stated, the comparison was Trump and not each other. That would account for the “pouting” you mentioned and I did notice when Mr. Perez was introduced, Mr. Ellison looked extremely “vexed” and did not applaud immediately. It all comes down to politics…and money.

  10. TLentych,

    Addendum:”…..nor will REAL activism be found in the Democratic Party.”

    The Democratic Party will eventually break out into a battle between the Jews and the African-Americans. Allan Dershowitz has already fired the first shot.

    Whose side do you think Trump will be on? He showed that last night in his attack on Jon Stewart.

  11. I have seen far to many activist get caught up in their issue… I am not mocking the issue or the people at all. I just think the notion of “compromise” has been lost (and no, I am not asking people to compromise on their values). Perez’s election is a perfect example. For any Progressive, Perez would still have to be acceptable, no? But after the election they were going nuts on it… I don’t get it…. because he “represents” something??? What exactly? You can have all the massive marches in the street that you want; the marches are important but I don’t think they matter that much in the long run. I would rather have one person in the room where everything happens. The left now controls nothing in DC. Who’s fault is this? Yours AND mine.

  12. Lately, not voting isn’t so much a vote for the status quo as it is a vote for an extremist minority. The risk is that the extremism becomes the status quo.

    How’s that old saying go? If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

  13. My daughter is a Democratic activist and we often discuss the state of politics today. We agree that in the final analysis the government we get is determined by arithmetic, or turnout. Politicians of all stripes argue that it is their stands on the issues that result in favorable turnout, but I am not persuaded that such is the case. In my experience I think people vote out of emotion (a process aided, of course, by gerrymandering, voter suppression, race and gender hatred and other means of reducing or inducing turnout).

    Thus going or not going to the polls is a ready-made victim inn waiting for propaganda meisters who work both to mobolize favorable voters and immobalize unfavorable voters leading up to the election with their Goebbelspeak. Money is also a factor (see the Koch Brothers and others), as the judiciary provides legal cover to the power grabbers under the aegis of Citizens United, so, to quote Donald, maybe the election is in truth “rigged.”

    What to do about this not so subtle destruction of our democratic institutions anchored in self-government by majority rule and consent of the governed? Do what Sheila recommends today and perhaps, among other things, end the excesses of gerrymandering and adopt the Oregon rule of voting by mail – and soon – since it appears that we the people are going to have to rescue our democracy from the clutches of the politicians intent on power-grabbing free from the restrictions of our democratic institutions. Our move.

  14. TLentych,

    “I sure hope you are wrong Marv..”

    I’m not. And that’s the reason why the CORE of a pro-democracy DEFENSE against the OFFENSIVE machinations of Trump/Pence/Bannon cannot be located within the Democratic Party, unless we are all into suicide.

    Our only chance is to swiftly create an effective “Third Force” outside of the Democratic Party against the Tea Party which is now thru mutation the base of the Republican Party. There is no other valid choice.

  15. 2016 was the easiest I have ever had voting. I contacted the state of AZ and requested a ballot. (I called them). I gave them my email address. They sent me a ballot request with instructions. I sent a copy of my AZ driver’s license back along with the ballot request that was printed, filled out, signed and sent back to them. They responded that they received all of the required information for voting and once early voting started, sent me a ballot via email. I printed the ballot, voted for the candidates I wanted, signed it, scanned it and emailed it back to them. They confirmed that they received the ballot and it was counted. Done.

    We were shocked that AZ has such an easy method for those living overseas to vote. Why can’t they do this for everyone? I’m sure that they will eventually but I was thrilled to vote early this year. This is our future. The other best method is to allow voting on weekends and every weekday for a month prior to the election. It should never take more than 15 minutes to vote. Never.

  16. Today, I’ve had the pleasure of reading some very bright suggestions made by some very bright people. There was a time when I would have believed any or all of those suggestions would work. This is not one of those times. In spite of the fact I did not vote for him, the Fake President Donald Trump spearheaded one of the most successful ad campaigns I’ve ever witnessed. He kept his name in front of the general public every day and every night. Most of the things attributed to him were negative, but that didn’t bother him. Every late night comedian mentioned his name several times a night.

    When Hillary’s name was mentioned, it was invariably associated with emails … one subject. I have a feeling that a great many voters decided that nobody could be as stupid as Trump was made out to be. But they were mistaken. He could be and he was, but he knew how to use it to his advantage. And the Democrats were never smart enough to stop using Trump’s name in their commercials.

  17. For years people have postulated an upcoming reckoning of human population, earth’s resources and energy. Are we headed for dystopia and is this the beginning of it?

    Bannon/Trump/Pence/Ryan/McConnell are symptoms. The state of the American electorate reflects the crumbling. The nearly fanatic panic by oligarchs to control everything is desperation to extend what’s broken because they know nothing other than excess. Everyone is hoping that this administration will bring back the past instead of prepare for the future.

    What exactly should liberals be fighting for?

    Not the world that’s in the rear view mirror. Not the inevitable future that the electorate is deathly afraid of.

    At this point the only thing that is helpful is the most benign collapse possible which probably is defined as no nuclear wars.

    And prepare to pick up the pieces.

  18. Did anyone check the Dow Jones today? Must be the result of all the optimism your “unqualified” president talked about last night.

  19. Becky – The Dow and economic growth are unconnected. The only reason the Dow is up is because Trump has promised the Wall Street moneychangers less taxes and less regulation aka corporate welfare which has nothing to do with more efficient production of goods and services.

  20. Polls, voter ID laws, gerrymandering….
    It’s like hearing Warren tell us we all made a mistake all over again.

  21. Right Gerald ????
    Excessive taxes and burdensome regulations have nothing to do with economic growth. NOT!

  22. It is not just turnout. It is a cause that drives participation in any social process. The social process of participation requires a reason to join in and then activate the group to action.

    The Republicans have taken over the dialogue on Health Care. Representative Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) has introduced his “counter punch” bill HR 676. H.R. 676 establishes a unique American universal health insurance program with single-payer financing. The bill would create a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system that improves and expands the already existing Medicare program to all U.S. residents, and all residents living in U.S. territories.

    There are now 61 Co-Sponsors for HR 676. Not one, I SAY again not one of our Indiana Federal Representatives is a Co-Sponsor. I did not expect the Republicans to rally to HR 676, but neither of our Democratic Party Representatives Andre Carson or Pete Visclosky have signed on to be Co-Sponsors. By the way Rep. Ellison, Keith [D-MN-5], who lost the election for DNC Chair is a Co-Sponsor. You can find details here:

    You want something better than a Corporate For Profit Health Care System, then call, write or E-Mail your Federal Representative and tell them to C0-Sponsor HR 676!!!

    The Mc-Mega-Media has given zero coverage to HR 676 as viable option to ACA or any Republican Plan.

  23. Gerald is absolutely correct. We must educate people to not conflate the economy with wall street. Nearly every media journalist makes this mistake.

  24. But Becky makes a point: Trump and the republicans can still speak a lie or half-truth out loud and it instantly becomes a fact in the minds of their supporters, without any facts to back it. Then it gets repeated on talk radio and on Fox, potentially creating doubt in the minds of others. Next thing you know Trump is King.

  25. I think the professor already wrote about the DOW and how it doesn’t relate to economy much at all, didn’t she?

  26. Bingo, Dale! And regardless of how they dress him up and tone him down to look and sound more “presidential”, he’s still Donald Trump, and that’s our problem. He cares not a fig for the average American. From the looks of the motley crew around him, he doesn’t know any.

    Welcome home, Marv! We need you more than ever!

  27. May I have your attention please: there is something in the form of another media event at 9:00 p.m. tonight on MSNBC…Trump/Putin Power Play is all the info provided.

    At 6:00 p.m. tonight Pence will be interviewed on Fox News by Greta regarding the historic record set by Dow today.

    These are announcements alternating in the lower right corner of the TV screen on MSNBC. Can this nightmare get any worse? Never mind; we all know it can and it will.

  28. Betty,

    Thanks. I needed to get away for awhile. My “head” has been in Europe the past few weeks. It felt great.

    Many of the best minds in Europe see Donald Trump more dangerous to them than even to us. I believe they could be a welcome friend in a joint endeavour. They don’t have to face the criticism we do for calling a “spade a spade” or, more specifically, calling a racist and an anti-Semite President, “a racist and an anti-Semite.”

    AgingLgirl probably could attest to that.

  29. Hey Marv, I’ve been out very little the past couple of weeks with the status of my leaving this expensive place but, did get out on Monday. A couple of my UK friends were curious what I was going to do when I got back to the states. I told them that I was joining the #Resistance and that #45 was #NotMyPresident. They smiled. But then as the conversation progressed and, I had to reel myself in from my emotional response to and about #45, they asked how we could have ever picked Clinton. Really? Sigh. So…after hearing that question many times in the past couple of months, my theory is that NOBODY liked her, her history, her husband, her service didn’t mean anything to them here. Ugh. Democrats need to fix that and by 2018 and 2020.

    I didn’t watch the speech last night. Sorry, I have too much to do, not enough Tums and frankly, I get angry every time I hear his freaking voice so I. Just. Couldn’t. I read about the highlights and saw a few moments of clips before muting that proved that he is still unfit to be in that position. The whole world fears for their lives. I know it because I do. Europeans think we’re. Just. Stupid. They loved Obama, for the most part. A. Decent. Human. They are just as shocked as we are with the results. When will he start the next war because the way he talks, he’s got one in the works. We’re all just waiting for the next tweet to declare war on somebody that broke his thin skin.

    god help us all.

  30. The nightmare will get worse and worse. It has to. That’s the way political “gaslighting” works. You can’t let up. Once you do, you will be facing a “fatal backlash.”

    So, once the “gaslighting” loses its effect, you then must turn to a much harsher means of control, much like the illegal immigrants are now facing. The switch will come when Trump/Pence/Bannon are confident their “base” will back them up.

    How else can we expect THIS President to maintain “peace and tranquillity?” He has no other options. Who says, “this can’t happen here?”

  31. TB (Trump/Bannon) has it all worked out…..”The stock market is reaching for they sky.”

    It’s just a second-class “baiting manoeuver.” Anyone who questions its rise will be blamed for bringing it down. That could come any day.

    The $64,000 question is who will that be? I’ve got my guess.

    Hey, I’ve got my answer. It’s on page 13 of my Anti-Nazi Playbook.

  32. This is not a nightmare. It is real. And only a “real” defense can bring it to a halt. We better wake up and fast. As most of you know, I’ve been saying that for almost two years.

  33. Just a reminder – Our president is actually Bannon, not trump. Bannon is the puppet master of trump.

  34. Marge; the little I know about Bonhoeffer, we appear to have some liberals at this time who follow his outspoken denials of Hitler’s fascist regime in their demands for investigation of Trump/Putin/Russia connections with Bannon calling the shots from this end. With the widely diverse sources of publishing any and all views on social media; the general public is not hesitating to seek supporters, bringing together protesters to rally and march. If Germans had these communication advantages, and those of Bonhoeffer’s ability to lead, the story might have been much different and the Holocaust prevented. We are fighting to prevent a combination 21st Century version of our own Civil War and the Holocaust in Europe; Trump is drawing other nations into the situation and many of the nations have nuclear arms. Would Bonhoeffer’s philosophy be beneficial today; I believe it would. Bonhoeffer wanted to see and end to WWII; we are now trying to PREVENT WWIII.

  35. Marge,

    “Marv, tell us again. What should we do? Imitate Bonhoeffer?

    Yes. Imitating Bonhoeffer is our last and only chance. He’s our model. Europeans understand him much better than we do. Back in 2010, I spent about 10 days living in the same dormitory as Bonhoeffer did on the campus of Union Theological Seminary in New York and researching through most of all of his works which are in a special section of their library.

    My longtime companion was one the most accomplished graduates from Union. I knew that there must have been a secret to her strength and integrity. Her family background had much to do with it, but her years at Union had to have played a vital part in her successes. I’m sure of that.

    Another graduate from Union started the Highlander School which played such a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s. I pointed that out on my website for The Political Epidemiology Institute at

    Bonhoeffer and UNION can be the keys to our success. Cornell West still teaches there and Bill Moyers has been a longtime Trustee. It needs to be our core, both from a spiritual and intellectual perspective.

  36. Bonhoeffer did much more than talk or write. He stood up to power. That’s the most important part of his legacy. His deep religious belief played an integral in his continual display of CIVIC COURAGE.

  37. “Chaos theory is a branch of mathematics focused on the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. ‘Chaos’ is an interdisciplinary theory stating that within the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, there are underlying patterns, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals, self-organization, and reliance on programming at the initial point known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions. ”

    Above, I copied and pasted the Wikipedia definition of “Chaos Theory”. I believe this works well into the issue of “It’s the Turnout, Stupid” regarding our 2016 election results. The Chaos Theory IS the foundation of staunch Republicans regarding their “…initial point known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” They literally cannot change their thought processes from familial inherited Republican voting habits. They move all other people and theories into a state of “Coventry” and close their minds to facts and scientific proof of change in the world around us.

    Connecting the Tuesday night “speech” by Trump to Congress, the Wednesday night MSNBC program, “Trump/Pence Power Play”, the escalating demands for investigation into that connection, goes back to Trump’s 2015-2016 campaign statements and support of Putin and Russia above the United States and our Constitution based on democracy…Trump’s “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”…his family money. The interconnections between Trump’s and Putin’s desire to rule the world and control all the money, lead here by Bannon’s blueprint and Pastor Pence’s pseudo Christian leadership to keep them straight with his God, brought us to the 2016 election turnout and the ensuing Chaos Theory we are trying to uncover and make public today.

    Trump and his cohorts are all using W.C. Fields’ philosophy of, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” Sessions’ “No” responses to questions regarading his meetings with Russians is a prime example. So far it is working; why else is an investigation being questioned and denied by the current administration? The investigators are among those who need to be investigated – back to the Chaos Theory.

    Sorry this is so long but…I could find no way to shorten it due to being baffled by the bullshit being spewed by the Trump administration.

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