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The elderly woman stood in her thin robe at the doorway of her modest bungalow, scratching the sores on her arm, a slight tremor traveling through her gaunt body.

“No, I’m sick of the government and all the things they’re doing,” she said, her voice cracking. “Oh, don’t get me started.”

This poor, frazzled woman could barely look me in the eye. Her gaze seemed to focus alternately just over my shoulder and on a spot just above eye-level on her doorjamb. It was a few weeks before the general election, and she was on my block-walking list for the North Side, so presumably she’d voted for Democrats before. But now I marked her as a definite non-voter.

I thought about the grab bag of pseudo-hysterical news coverage, much of it without context or common sense, that she and the rest of us had endured these past months. Surely that had something to do with her decision not to vote. No doubt Ebola, rumors of IS on the border, and god-only-knows-what-else were dancing in her head.

After the shellacking Democrats took in the midterms, President Obama said he’d heard the one-third who voted and the two-thirds who didn’t. Maybe we should all try to do likewise. This poor woman I talked with on a Saturday morning in October represents so many of those who chose not to vote.

Maybe before the political class commences with its usual horse-race commentary on the next big contest — it’s Rand on the outside pulling up next to Hillary — we could all take a step back and really think on what just happened.

My first take-away is how profoundly undemocratic mid-term elections are. In this go-round, 17 percent of the electorate — generally older, whiter, more affluent than the general population — got to change the course of our nation and perhaps our planet, effectively vetoing what a larger, more representative electorate OK’d in 2012. I don’t think anyone should feel good about that. And that’s as true now when Republicans are helped by it as it was in 2006 when Democrats made gains.

Please spare me the invariably misspelled e-mails along the intellectual lines of: “Hey libtard, go back to scool [sic]! We’re a Republic, not a democracy!” According to an esteemed political thinker, the late Robert A. Dahl, in “the 18th century the terms ‘democracy’ and ‘republic’ were used … interchangeably,” but both meant a representative dem-ocracy, what we deem ourselves to be.

What all good Americans should want, regardless of their political leanings, is to make this a more perfect Union, a democracy that more truly represents its citizens. So is our current political system — filled with gerrymandering, content-free campaigns, nausea-inducing attack ads, and the covert quid pro quo of dark money — the legacy we really want to pass on to our children? I doubt it.

If there’s anything central to keeping the United States a truly representative democracy, it’s the simple act of voting. I think it’s time we try an idea from Down Under: In Australia, if you don’t vote, you get a ticket. Surely voting is as much a civic duty as serving on a jury or paying our taxes. Since we already pay a fine if we shirk jury duty or dodge paying taxes, why shouldn’t we pay a penalty for not voting?

And, by all means, let’s do the opposite of our state, home of a voter ID law so blatantly designed to suppress the votes of the poor, college students, and minorities that a judge has ruled that it resembles an unconstitutional poll tax. We should instead make it much easier for everyone to vote. Other countries automatically register voters and declare election day a national holiday. Other reforms that encourage more voter participation, like mail-in ballots, instant run-offs, and proportional representation, are all well worth considering. But we must do something.

The U.S.’ low ranking in voter participation, 120th according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, is inexcusable.

Low voter turnout is truly something we should all be outraged by, rather than the scandals du jour offered up by hyperventilating cable news programs. Because there can be no true consent of the governed if so very few bother to vote.

 

Fort Worth writer Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue  can be reached at kwheatcroftpardue@yahoo.com or kwheatcroft.blogspot.com.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Ken, many voters, after six years of Liberal big government policies, decided in 2014 that they wanted LESS government. In your similar article on your blogspot, you described the woman in the thin robe thusly: “Her attitude is exactly what the Republicans want. They want her and people of modest means like her to be so disgusted with government that they end up not even voting.” You’re part right and part wrong. In my view, there are TWO options for those disgusted by big government. One is to stop voting for MORE big government by stopping voting for Democrats. The other option, obviously, is to vote Conservative, or if you can’t do that, vote Republican.

  2. When i tell people I used to live in Texas, they are suprised when I tell them there is no “politics” there. Most elections are decided in the pirmaries where the red meat is slung around for the few that show up for that. Local elections are held on a Sat. in the spring and and no one shows up because there are other things to do and nothing much on the ballot anyway (most cities and states in the US put local stuff on Nov. ballot and it does not confuse anyone as Texans politicians [who benefit from low turnout] like to claim). Problem is, a lot of Texans are from someplace else and they have little interest in local issues and that lack of a bottom-up voter baseline shoots up to a statewide level. When I lived in FW, I heard the Hispanics often gripe about having few of their own on city council and school board seats and they cried the old racist tune. I told them to get their people to show up. They said the system worked against them. Oh well, excuses, excuses. Tweaking the system might get a few voters out, but the fact remains, there is no excuses for not showing up to vote for 99 % of the people who don’t vote. And the fact is, Texans don’t vote anymore (maybe the slogan should be “Turnout is Smaller in Texas, Yee-hah”).

    • As a Hispanic who lives in the Diamond Hill area of Fort Worth, if democrats want to get more hispanic votes, they should at least get people who 1) Speak Spanish 2) Know what they represent 3) dress in appropriate attire. I had 3 people show up at my house. The first person said “My name is (name) and I am a supporter of the Wendy Davis campaign, … I was just wanting to encourage you to go out and vote (hands flier to me)” … and that was literally all the guy said, In my head I was like “that’s it?”. 2nd person who showed up to my house looked, talked, and acted like a stoner… the guy’s hair was like Bob Marley’s and he kept saying the word “like” excessively, and his speech was very slow paced which worried me, I interrupted the guy (who had a blue shirt, without any logo, symbol, etc.) and told him that my family leaned conservative… the guy stuttered for a while, and asked “like is it because you support the (pause) republicans? or is it like because you just are conservative?” (I gave him the answer before the question was even asked). Eventually a third person appeared (near election day) and the person actually had a suit on (formal) with a label on his shirt showing who he was representing (Wendy Davis) and he actually spoke Spanish which impressed me (it was a first…). I am sorry but Wendy Davis’ supporters weren’t trained or had any pre existing knowledge to win more Hispanic votes. I am sorry but… seriously… If you want to be appealing towards us, Hispanics, at least give a consistent effort, don’t just get people who are uneducated and do not stand up for their own views… People like the one I mentioned last, would have probably have increase the Hispanic votes towards the democrats.

      • Oh by the way, if you believe the “red wave” that swept the country was because of the lack of voter turn out- in states such as Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, Mass. well you guessed wrong… These states are strong democratic powerhouses, I was even surprised that these states voted for republican governors. I went on to city-forums (again) and went to political threads located in national section, and I also viewed threads in Maryland’s forums, and a crap load of people said either one of the following statements “I voted for an independent because I will never vote republican, but I will admit I was tempted to” or they said “I can’t believe I actually voted for the republicans”… many of these people either became centralist/independents/etc. or they started leaning republican… You can complain about the lack of voter turn-out on part of the democrats with faulty data, but if some democrats switched political sides, than of course there would be a lesser amount of democrats to survey because a handful of the “use to be democrats” became independents or they started leaning republican, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if in the next elections everything flips to the other side… this is the U.S.A., pretty much little gets done with both sides, and more than likely future elections will follow this patter… D, R, D, R, D, R, D, R, D, R, D, R, D, R… do you see any patterns…

      • Citizen, I am pretty surprised how you disregard people with speech impediments, and by your post, tend to think their problems with speech are an indications of their mental abilities. So you say that “his speech was very slow paced which worried me,” but how does that worry you? I know many people who speak in a slow and steady way and I don’t get worried when I hear that. Then you talk about the man “stuttered for a while.” In the United States there about 3 million who stutter, part of about 68 million worldwide. It is a disorder of which there are no apparent causes yet found, though recent research has brought about some clues. There is clear empirical evidence for structural and functional differences in the brains of people who stutter. Research is complicated somewhat by the possibility that such differences between those that stutter and those who do not could be the consequences of stuttering rather than a cause, but recent research on older children confirms structural differences thereby giving strength to the argument that at least some of the differences are not a consequence of stuttering. For some people who stutter, congenital factors may play a role. These may include physical trauma at or around birth, learning disabilities, as well as cerebral palsy. In other people who stutter, there could be added impact due to stressful situations such as the birth of a sibling, moving, or a sudden growth in linguistic ability. In a recent 2010 study, three genes were found to correlate with stuttering: GNPTAB, GNPTG, and NAGPA. Researchers estimated that alterations in these three genes were present in 9% of people who stutter who have a family history of stuttering. So I would suggest, Citizen, that perhaps you should not put down someone for a speech impediment who comes to your door with the courage to work in spite of disability that many of us would hide from. I think your comments are embarrassing to those of us who do not think making fun of the disabled is just a normal way of behavior.

  3. Ken,

    Would paying the people you want to vote to vote, and giving them more than one vote, result in the sort of representation you seem to feel is appropriate?

    If you’re outraged about voter turnout, write an article about that. If you’re outraged that affluent white people vote, and other groups don’t, then write about that.

    But don’t complain when you don’t get what you want at the polls and blame it on race.

    This statement does not belong is an even-handed article about voter turnout:

    ” In this go-round, 17 percent of the electorate — generally older, whiter, more affluent than the general population — got to change the course of our nation and perhaps our planet, effectively vetoing what a larger, more representative electorate OK’d in 2012. I don’t think anyone should feel good about that. ”

    Another poorly written race-baiting article from Ken W-P.

    Sincerely,

    C. Mordillo

  4. Chainsaw, sometimes I wonder if FWW writers invent details to fit their stories. According to W-P, the woman was:

    elderly
    wearing a thin robe
    lived in a modest home
    had sores on her arm
    had a slight tremor
    was gaunt
    was poor and frazzled

    If W-P noticed all this detail about the woman, she probably avoided eye contact with him because she was dubious of the guy at her dooway giving her the eye. Oh well.

  5. Mr. Wheatcroft-Pardue,

    Let’s be honest here.

    The biggest tragedy for you was not how few people voted.

    Your “tragedy” is that your side LOST.

    Methinks thou doth protest too much about “undemocratic” midterms because … …

    the Democrats lost!

    Seriously .. would you have been upset if the Republicans had stayed home?

    People are free to make their own choices and the fact that You LOST. does not mean democracy lost.

    Simple as that.

    “Profoundly undemocratic”?

    Everyone who legally was allowed to vote COULD have voted.
    (On the Democratic side, even those who legally are not allowed to vote OFTEN DO)

    The fact that so many Democrats refused to vote … is a vote of sorts.

    Has the thought ever crossed your mind that .. perhaps, just maybe .. a large percentage of Democratic voters (even the hardcore base who usually turn out for mid-terms) stayed home because they just can’t get excited about the botched rollout of Obamacare and that black Democrats, in particular, are not comfortable with the continued and obvious deliberate importation of underage South American children into this country?

    A ticket for not voting?

    Really??

    Funny .. how people who are so committed to freedom of choice in abortion and same sex marriages are so willing to force others to chose a health insurance policy that may be totally inappropriate .. even to the point of sicking the IRS on us and “fining” us up to 2% of our income if we do not comply! Are you really ok with this kind of draconian goverment overreach?

    If a voter chooses not to vote, that is their decision.
    Choosing not to vote is actually casting a vote in some ways.
    Many Republicans sat out the 2012 Presidential election because they were not happy with their nominee.

    Who are you to be Big Brother and FORCE them to vote if they don’t want to?
    If someone is not educated on the issues or just doesn’t like the choices offered, then I don’t want them to vote!!

    I find your FWWeekly to be hypocritical and your logic to be selectively applied.

    On second thought .. your logic scares me.

    I am one of those “generally older, whiter” (unfortunately not more affluent) trouble makers who changed the course of our planet by working my tail off to get true Constitutional Republicans elected.

    (Ok .. maybe a few RINOs slipped through but I would rather fight a RINO than a Democrat any day.)

    So please .. spare us your holier than thou righteous indignation.

    You lost. We won.

    Get over it.

    You will most likely get your turn again.

    Especially if our current President continues to lure and illegally usher in tens of millions of new Democratic voters by promising the moon to anyone who can cross the river and then giving them free health care, free food and Walmart cards while arranging special buses to ship them deep into our country..

    Hopefully, if you ever do realize what is happening to our beloved country now, you will wake up and try to reform your own party as we are trying to do on the Republican side.

    Good luck with that ….

    Respectfully,

    An older, whiter, Republican voter.

  6. Let me see, on this go-around, I’m accused of being a pervert, ogling an elderly frazzled woman, and a race-baiter for merely pointing out the fact that midterm voters are whiter than the population as a whole. Then I am raked over the very cold coals of Fox News talking points.
    Benghazi! How many committees have to investigate that tragedy at several million dollars a pop before so-called fiscally-conservative Republicans will let this “scandal” finally die? Speaking of zombie ideas! If that’s your idea of a strong talking point, evidence and facts must not matter to you at all.
    On this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful the other side argues so poorly. But, seriously, is there really no one on the other side who cares more about this country than their party affiliation? Does anybody really think this government works very well?
    What we all need is a better government. What we need are people of good-will of any political persuasion who will work to make this a more perfect union that works not just for the financial services and energy sectors of the economy (where most dark money, this midterm came from), but for all of us. Is there no one any more who cares for the common good? I continue to hope for real change, but I know hope often fades.

  7. Ken…here’s the deal and I suggest you simply accept it….Peckerwoods are going to be Peckerwoods, Repugs are going to be Repugs,, just the way thangs is….there you have it.

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