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The Transpartisan Review Blog #23

Non-Voters: Transpartisan Base?

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

Trump won. Electoral vote 306; popular vote 62,693,993. Clinton lost. Electoral vote 232; popular vote 65,260,513 (and counting). (CNN, Dec 5, 2016). “Voter Eligible Population That Didn’t Vote: 95,899,115 (41.4 percent of total eligible voters.)…there were 251,107,404 people who classify as members of the voting-age population; therefore 115,449,897 of the voting-age population (or 46.3 percent) did not vote.” (Click here for reference). The voting age population includes non-eligible voters such as 2.5 million felons, thus the difference between voting age population and eligible voters.

Context: According to Gallup’s October 2016 party affiliation survey, 36% of Americans identify as independents, 32% as Democrats, 27% as Republicans. 40% to 45% of age eligible vogters opt out of voting and 35% to 40% opt out of registering as either Dems or Reps (Gallup said “In 2015, for the fifth consecutive year, at least four in 10 U.S. adults identified as political independents…[Specifically] 42% identify as independents, 29% as Democrats, 26% as Republicans.)

In our 2008 book, The Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life, we cited polling data from Brookings, Hoover and other institutions suggesting that the left-right spectrum clustered 15% of politically active Americans on the left and the right peripheries. Their arguments take up the political oxygen, leaving out the vast majority (70%) of Americans who identify as independents and/or choose not to vote.

Richard Cohen wrote in the Dec 5, 2016 New York Times, “Western democracies are in the midst of an upheaval they only dimly grasp. Virtual direct democracy through social media has outflanked representative democracy. The impact of the smartphone on the human psyche is as yet scarcely understood; its addictiveness is treacherous and can be the enemy of thought. Mr. Trump hijacked the Republican Party like a man borrowing a dinner jacket for an evening. His campaign moved through Twitter to the aroused masses; it had no use or need for conventional channels. The major political parties in Britain and the United States will have to prove their relevance again.” (Click here for reference.)

The Trump/Clinton contest leaves the party relevance question open. Trump got essentially the same number of votes as McCain or Romney. Clinton fell fatally short of Obama’s two national votes. The 50% to 70% of age-eligible voters whose interest the parties neglect present  major Transpartisan opportunity. The Transpartisan Review intends to point out a variety of approaches to this opening.

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