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When Only Partisan Voters Vote, Only Partisan Candidates Are Elected

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In an article published on Friday, June 13, 2014, Vox writer Ezra Klein highlights was is arguably the most important thing to take from Pew’s survey on partisanship in America. It is something that has been talked about many times on IVN, and confirmed by research groups like Pew Research: the people who participate most in politics are the most partisan and most ideological.

Why is this so important? Because we cannot simply blame our politicians for the canyon-like partisan division in Washington. Sure, our lawmakers ultimately decide how they are going to legislate, but they are also legislating to appease a base that keeps them in office.

American politics is increasingly driven by a small group of highly ideological, highly partisan, highly politically engaged people.
Ezra Klein, Vox writer
Pew not only found that the partisan divide is widening and political antipathy is deepening, but it also found that party identity is more consistently aligned with the ideological extremes than ever before. So, as the most partisan members of the Republican and Democratic parties move more to the right or to the left, respectively, the United States is seeing the election of lawmakers who cater to this bloc of voters.

These voters are the most politically active. These are the voters who donate to campaigns, who write letters to lawmakers, who are the most active on social media, and perhaps more importantly: they vote in primaries.

“American politics is increasingly driven by a small group of highly ideological, highly partisan, highly politically engaged people,” Klein writes.

The flaw, however, in how most news outlets report on this shift is to say it represents the American people as a whole. Political commentators in the mainstream media, most of whom are partisan talking heads, say that a more divided Congress is simply a reflection of a more polarized American electorate. This is not true.

What the media often fails to educate voters on is the importance of primary elections.

Due to over 200 years of partisan gerrymandering and election laws that put the interests of private organizations over the interests of voters, general elections in most congressional races are considered non-competitive each election year. In other words, these general elections might as well be considered solely a formality because the system is rigged to favor one major party or the other. This makes primary elections a pivotal stage in the election process.

 

Just 35 of 435 Elections Competitive after 201 Years of Gerrymandering

 

Just ask U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor how important he thinks primary elections are now.

On Tuesday, he became the first House majority leader in U.S. history to lose his seat in the primary election — a seat he has retained in previous general elections with almost 60 percent of the vote. So, as the district is heavily Republican, it stands to reason that the winner of the primary election will ultimately win the general election, something that is usually decided by less than 10 percent of the voting population.

National turnout during primary elections averages around 9 percent and historically it is the most partisan voters who participate. So, it doesn’t take very many voters to threaten an incumbency, especially if there is an organized grassroots movement that is attempting to oust “establishment” lawmakers. And when candidates are elected by less than 10 percent of the voting population — sometimes less than 5 percent — it seems only inevitable that they will legislate to appease whoever this 10 percent is.

It is unreasonable to suggest that 10 percent of the voting population represents the American people as a whole.
Shawn M. Griffiths, IVN Editor-in-Chief
It is unreasonable to suggest that 10 percent of the voting population represents the American people as a whole.

A growing number of Americans are choosing not to register with the major parties that have abandoned them — most of these voters are choosing not to register under a party label at all, major or minor. An even larger percentage of the American public — a plurality — self-identifies as independent. A majority of Americans believe neither major party represents them and many voters often end up voting with a “lesser-of-two-evils” mentality

Is the American public becoming more polarized? No. However, the current election system encourages partisanship as it protects the interests of private organizations — the major political parties — over the interests of voters. It seeks to divide the American people into factions, when a growing number of Americans don’t want to be a member of a political faction. It tells voters that they don’t have real choice and that their vote doesn’t matter, and if they don’t want to waste their vote or if they want full participation then they better associate with a party.

There is no guarantee that election reform will immediately turnaround voter participation numbers, but what is evident is that as partisanship worsens, disenchantment with the current political system grows and that is resulting in lower voter turnouts. People don’t want to participate in a system they have no confidence in or they believe they have no real voice in. So, the first step is to give them a system that guarantees they have a full and meaningful voice.

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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1020 comments
Greg Wood
Greg Wood

What are we waiting for !!!!

Diane Derr
Diane Derr

We know what you did republicans, may you fall far and fast!

Gregg Wietstock
Gregg Wietstock

It is rigged to prop up two puppets. Either will serve the puppeteer well and the people will think they have a choice.

Dennis Maloney
Dennis Maloney

Vote your conscience! Vote for a candidate you believe in. Don't use you vote to vote against the " other" candidate. Vote for the candidate you agree with !

Patti Sevelin
Patti Sevelin

Any worker who does not do what the customer wants, should be fired.

Bill VandeSande
Bill VandeSande

Reading these posts makes me wonder how many of you have ever actually participated in the process. Voting is the last step, not the first. Have you ever attended your precinct convention? Have a clue what that is? How about the senatorial convention? Have a clue what it is? Attended a state convention? Have a clue? Most of you complain that the system is rigged and bought while you sit at home watching college football and calling each other names. You never got off your butt, rounded up the thousands of friends who apparently share your politics, and gotten involved. Money only buys elections because most people are too lazy to be part of the solution. I did for about ten years. I have given up because this country is populated by whiners too lazy to get out and affect the outcome. I didn't run into the "oligarchy" and "corporate" fat cats, I ran into the apathy and self imposed hopelessness of embracers of lethargy. The reality today is we will end up with a criminal or a borderline megalomaniac as our next president. Look in the mirror and say thanks for all the hard work.

Julie Schulman DeLuca
Julie Schulman DeLuca

There isn't a difference between a democrat and a republican. They're both the establishment. That's why they don't want Donald trump. He'll shake up their world‼️

Tom Donohue
Tom Donohue

Why do all of Hillary’s aids need to plead the 5th or get immunity deals if no wrong doing was done? Why did Bill have to publically corrupt Loretta Lynch on the tarmac, taking the DOJ out of the process? And why did Obama stand back and let all this happen? The Clintons and Obama are as corrupt as hell. The only honest, progressive candidate we have is Jill Stein.

Corey Geloneck
Corey Geloneck

Nonpartisan voters are voting... it's the democrats and republicans who are controlling the election to make their votes not count.

Steven Barnes
Steven Barnes

Your vote doesnt matter if you arent for a party. Theyve made it very clear

Kate Swigonski
Kate Swigonski

We need a citizens overhaul of a lot of the crap that is passing as leadership. We must demand term limits and elect honest everyday people to government who know they serve our will.

Margarett Campbell
Margarett Campbell

Independent candidates are not given the same opportunity as the two main parties.

Terry Mingus
Terry Mingus

Time for a complete overhaul including removing old farts... ooops I mean old parts that don't work anymore and installing new upgraded OEM parts so our system more closely resembles the one we created to escape European style feudal lord governmental systems.

Jim McDonald
Jim McDonald

Sad election for America. Two evil people running.

Marla Johnson
Marla Johnson

Vote #JillNotHill she's winning in online polls by a landslide!!!!! Make them #FeelTheBern

Joe Cox
Joe Cox

#jillnothill #netflixandjill Jillstein.bigcartel.com

Edward Cassidy
Edward Cassidy

Protest . March. For your right to vote on the things your government votes on.2016. It is time.

Mark Dresselhaus
Mark Dresselhaus

Or maybe the people who live in those districts have a lot in common

Cj Prance
Cj Prance

Personally, I say instead of exiting the parties, join them en masse. We're not going to facilitate chance from the outside. Especially in closed primary states. Let's say 80% of the Independents in Florida joined the Democratic Party AND 20% of them actually showed up to party meetings and votes and ran for party positions. In 6 years they'd be in charge. They would be influential AND could open up the primaries.

William Connors
William Connors

Time for reform! How about his radical idea...? 1. Everyone who wants to vote, VOTE! 2. Count those votes. 3. The candidate with the highest number of votes wins!!! ...or is that no good because it's too simple a system to rig?

James Woodard
James Woodard

True. Ohio is proof of this statement. Only partisan candidates get on the ballot.

Mary Hoke
Mary Hoke

Have trouble figuring out why they said your vote counts and then they don't let you because they legally kept you from voting just so your vote won't count.

Marsha Crosby
Marsha Crosby

Time to change everything! Get rid of the whole electoral college and have it be by popular vote. Get rid of just the two parties. Get rid of delegates and superdelegates. Set term limits. Get rid of the special health care and pensions for the senate and house. Make them use Obamacare. ETC. But the biggest thing is we have to get $$$ out of politics.

Jill Bossi
Jill Bossi

Independents can have a huge impact on the future of politics within their own Congressional & State races. By voting for the NEW person on the ballot -- not the incumbent. A NEW person who has a chance at winning if Independents will support their candidacy and CHANGE the dynamics within Washington.

David Ambrico
David Ambrico

The founding fathers didn't give us the vote only to have it stolen away by special interests and corporations. We used to be "we the people"....

Craig Mardick
Craig Mardick

Agree about citizens united, but this problem was occurring way before this supreme court ruling. It is the system and establishment politics that is the problem.

Bryan Evans
Bryan Evans

Time for an Amendment to the Constitution that separates industry and state.

Rachael Butler Mellen
Rachael Butler Mellen

Ironically, the Constitution was written to discourage factionalism - Washington was against the idea of political parties. The Founding Fathers used the Roman Republic as a template, which was a meritocracy not a democracy.

Dan Catania
Dan Catania

Our rights are under assault , especially in California and we as Citizens should know why. This movie is a fast-paced journey of one young man, 22-year old Jesse Winton as he sets out to unearth the forces behind the gun control agenda. It features interviews with (me) Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, Governor Mike Huckabee, and Katie Pavlich of Fox News, and many others with interesting perspectives on this controversial subject. http://targetedthemovie.com/#home

Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith

And that means that the country deserves whatever it gets. Too flipping lazy to go vote? Then just STFU. If you don't participate, you forfeit your right to whine.

Lucy Hill
Lucy Hill

And if you vote for Jill or Gary you are throwing your v I tell away... it's sad but true

Chris Worden
Chris Worden

If your an Independent, send the powers that be a message and vote for a 3rd party candidate.

Chris Goosen
Chris Goosen

register as independents show no loyality to these corrupt parties ,make your vote count

Ed Bray
Ed Bray

Lancelot Morciglio Rodrigues...it's not a scientific law, nor does it happen by magic.

Dennis Bertaud
Dennis Bertaud

Unless and until we can get over the racism, hatred, and bigotry, this nation is doomed.

Brad Seale
Brad Seale

Partisan voters must be unaware of the corruption and dysfunction in both parties. They must not know about the 19 trillion in debt, attacks on our Constitutional rights, policies that weaken our sovereignty, representation only to the those who "donate" the most money, and foreign policy that threatens our national security.

Craig Mardick
Craig Mardick

Great idea. The problem is local govt are at war with these self sustaining communities through the local zoning. A few have made it through, but most fail. Reasoning is they do not produce income for the govt, so the govt shuts you down. But, I am all for the idea!!!

Jd Fiske
Jd Fiske

Thanks for your input Craig! I'm suggesting we turn our backs on government & corporate america which is why it will take so many of us to pull offf. We don't need to fight over anything, just turn our backs, or butt cheeks, and go on our merry way leaving them in the dust so to speak. Certainly, it will take some practice, trial and error. We, the (sane, healthy) people are capable of learning from what doesn't work. Seems to me the first step is matching up our skill sets. Mine is growing high quality food without destroying the resources needed to grow high quality food. Another person's skill might be making the pitchfork & tarp I need to re-stack & cover the compost heap after the chickens churn the compost for us. Another person's skill my be the logistics of distributing supplies/food locally and/or globally as appropriate (food loses nutrition & taste when globally distributed, but some products/services have longer shelf life). Another person's skill might be technology....and so on. Your skill just might be helping to fine tune my ideas, leaving me time to do what I do best, and what I love doing\U0001f601

Jeremiah Galyon
Jeremiah Galyon

David Ambrico yeah, we should just ignore the fact Hillary attacked his rape victims and vote a rapist into the White House. Does that sound ok to you?

Paul Blakeslee
Paul Blakeslee

VOTE JOHNSON ! The worse that will happen is that you will win and the debt will be paid ,balanced budget ,maintained entitlements /safety nets and all without raising taxes ! a once in a lifetime opportunity !

Paul Flinner
Paul Flinner

What are you smoking. Most laughable comment .

Paul Blakeslee
Paul Blakeslee

I don't see anything funny about it ! He done it before ,he can again ,! He fixed N.M. helped create thousands of jobs,fired lobbyist ,vetoed over 750 pieces of bad legislation ,built schools new highways and left a billion dollar surplus ! were rated #3 governor over 8 years in a DEM majority state unheard of ! He started a construction company and for years were its only employee knows what it is to struggle from payday to payday and knows what AMERICANS THINK and how they feel !

Paul Blakeslee
Paul Blakeslee

Paul Flinner 50% of the country is INDEPENDENT ,48% REPand DEM combined only9% votes he leads with INDS BY31% 35and younger by31% most active military 3 times out of 4 and has more voters from all parties and his numbers continue to grow ,the others are in decline !

Paul Blakeslee
Paul Blakeslee

Paul Flinner New MEXICO were in bad shape when he were elected he fired 80% of lobbyist ,left a billion dollar surplus ,helped create thousands of jobs ,built new schools and highways ,vetoed over 750 pieces of bad legislation ,and were elected twice by a DEM majority ! He were rated #3 best GOVERNOR for that time only beat out byREP and DEM GOVERNORS in rep AND dem states each there own party he was not in a state with his own party ! that says volumes ! What are you popping !

Larry Haakenson-Komro
Larry Haakenson-Komro

At the very least, Johnson could be able to gather 5% of the vote and gain general election funds for the party in 2020. More choices are always better.

Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith

New Mexico is like a gnat compared to US economy. If you knew anything about economics, you would realize that with the size of the debt, it will never be paid off. NEVER. Just do the math.

Paul Flinner
Paul Flinner

NM is not as well off as you all may think. They have some serious issue's' govt wise. If he was viable, would've made a play much longer than 5 yrs ago and had a bigger foundation as a 3rd party. What's in your pipe.