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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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730 comments
Randy Nevens
Randy Nevens

They've lied, cheated, laundered money, bribed and been bribed, manipulated voters and the media has been conspired with them against us. They've left us with no option but a #3rdPartyRun, maybe a Sanders/Stein ticket to take advantage of the existing infrastructure of the Green Party!

Joyce Schuetz
Joyce Schuetz

It is time to change the system. The President and Vice President should be non-partisan races as the Constitution intended. Every citizen 18 or over should be able to vote.

Gary Lehman
Gary Lehman

Even the "good" ones like Obama are up to their necks in the stinking filth of partisanship for its own sake.

Mary Dandrea
Mary Dandrea

The current media coverage promotes partisanship. It is bad.

Elke Almeida
Elke Almeida

What do people not understand , "independent " means independent if you want to vote for a party join them or start a new one .

Nick Clark
Nick Clark

As a friend of mine posted, our emotional and cognitive development lies at that of a 6 year-old. At that age, the notion of intentionality has not begun to evolve. At that age we cannot even be victims of "either/or" experience or understanding.

Brenda Duffey
Brenda Duffey

I'm voting for someone, it will not, however, be from either of the major political parties. I think there are some that have enough of a stance on which I agree to support.

Ray Leghart
Ray Leghart

Very simple...if We, the People pay for these primaries, they are no longer a private function of the party and should be open to all voters.

Richard Hall
Richard Hall

That why we the people will VOTE Trump president

Robert Blanford
Robert Blanford

I'm tired of wasting my words...Im done commenting. Next step...action.

Gail Deibler Finke
Gail Deibler Finke

Maybe I'm crazy but I thought that was the way it was supposed to work. People vote for the candidate they agree with or, in theory, created a different party -- whose candidates they agree with. That's what parties are for. You know, "partisan."

Pat Cathey
Pat Cathey

It is the old "divide and conquer" ploy. Used by the wealthy and powerful to keep the majority fighting among themselves and splintering them into groups concentrated on trivial issues so they done notice what is happening and cannot take meaningful action on the big things. That is how we got in this mess in the first place.

Azriel Berkovits
Azriel Berkovits

Not this time! Trum is the choice of the people not the partisans. That is why all the partisans against him. Go #Trump!

Dennis Thering
Dennis Thering

They should not be allowed to use ANY public resources for closed primaries.

Mike Surgenor
Mike Surgenor

They need to eliminate all this election B.S. Have one 90 period in which to have a publicly financed campaign then have one vote, every citizen, over and done and we live with the result.

Eileen Zelek
Eileen Zelek

They have clearly instituted a system of checks against "outsiders" Even though Bernie has supported and voted with them for over 30 yrs, he is opposed. They've softened their "tone" recently while quietly drawing money from funds into HRCs campaign rather than down ticket races - in NY a huge effort for mail in/early voting.

Richard Genier
Richard Genier

The current system is broken with the Corruption from the top down! It's rigged against the American Citizen majority of voters to benifit the corrupt career politicans from both parties, & the wealthy who control them for favors to better them selves instead of working to better the Citizens!!!!!

Mark Dresselhaus
Mark Dresselhaus

Even "independents" are partisan--they have an agenda --it's just different

JP Stonestreet
JP Stonestreet

Partisanship is part of the plan. If they divide the citizens, we'll be too busy fighting each other to notice that they are the real enemies. It's working perfectly thanks in part to the media that only covers partisan issues and ignores joint efforts like #NoLabels, #DemocracySpring and #RepresentUs.

Eileen Zelek
Eileen Zelek

Good thing we can talk here..the MSM is dying..my worry is how they will attempt to control the internet next.

Barbara Schutt Worley Tallar
Barbara Schutt Worley Tallar

With the way the GOP has kissed Hussein's a-- and has been involved sabotaging Trump, isn't there really only one party? Tom T

Ed Corwin
Ed Corwin

That's why Bernie is now a democrat. It's the only way he can compete.

Victor McDade
Victor McDade

I vote, but there are, at most, 2 candidates with a shot to be elected. Too often, we have one candidate who will be elected no matter what. In SC, some offices are not even contested in a primary and the Democrats do not oppose every race. No 3rd party candidate has been elected.

Donna Rogers
Donna Rogers

Now we actually have political structures fighting against its own members and rigging the system to install the candidate who will maintain the system for their benefit. Both Trump and Bernie are absolute right about this one thing. We have been completely pushed out of our own government. It has been hijacked by the powerful. We have NO VOICE. Both of these parties have to go because neither party represents the people. They need our vote as a formality, to comply with the constitution or they wouldn't bother with us at all.

Eileen Zelek
Eileen Zelek

Mark Twain said "If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it" Which is exactly what the uproar is about. People have woken up and want to participate but its been set up to work for them not us.

France Seule
France Seule

bien venus chez la nouvelle république : #république_de_Marseille

Thomas Markun
Thomas Markun

ALL PRIMARIES AND CAUCUSES SHOULD BE OPEN. EVERYONE SHOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY REGISTERED TO VOTE ON THEIR 18TH BIRTHDAY. ELECTION DAY SHOULD BE A NATIONAL HOLIDAY. WE SHOULD ALWAYS BE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO MAKE IT EASIER TO VOTE. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WE DO TO DETERMINE WHAT KIND OF GOVERNMENT WE WANT. VOTER SUPPRESSION IS NOT DEMOCRATIC.

Denton Thorne
Denton Thorne

There is no way in hell Reince Priebus can claim that the Republican delegate election system is not rigged and corrupt from top to bottom and state to state, with shenanigan percentages of delegate allocations being falsely awarded against the actually percentage of votes or, in some states, awarded without any actual vote of the people. To hell with your rigged rules, Rince. What politics could be more corrupt than the Republican National Committee spending millions against a Republican candidate the RNC does not like instead of remaining neutral and respecting the intelligence and will of the people. Also, what politics could be more corrupt than denying voters a proper say in their future as well as America’s future! Reince claims that the rules were already in place and that all candidates should know the rules and abide (put up with) the rules. But it is the damn RNC rules that are rigged and corrupt from the start and always rigged in favor of establishment control so the RNC can say to hell with the voters choice for President and elect a candidate of their choice who will dance to the tune of the filthy rich establishment politicians and their filthy rich donors instead of the will of the people. These are the days of instant communication and with instant communication comes instant enlightenment that has exposed just how corrupt the American election system has become and just how much control the crooked establishment politicians and their filthy rich donors have over the American people. This year, the voters are saying enough is enough; we are not going to put up with corrupt bought-and-paid for politicians and this rigged political election system any longer. Voters want and voters demand a system of government controlled by the people, of the people and for the people as our forefathers envisioned or their will be hell to pay for the Republican party come July, come November, and for all future elections.

James L. Butler
James L. Butler

I think the general public is becoming more United against the polarizing parties and their hard core followers, which infuriates them even more through marginalization.

Mary Lewis
Mary Lewis

I agree Charly. We have become disillusioned, brainwashed, uninformed and lazy voters who believe what TV reporters tell us and newspaper articles tell us. We don't bother to inform ourselves with the issues and what the candidates's stances really are. Anyone can get up and say that they are going to do this or that and don't. We need a different election process-one that includes all eligible voters. Popular vote needs to reinstated and electoral college and super delegates ousted.

Steve Hough
Steve Hough

We certainly have the government we deserve, but the current primary process reveals hope that people are awakening. Independents supporting Trump and Sanders for different reasons, and some for the same reason, are actively changing their registrations in order to send a message to the entrenched political duopoly. Results (or the lack thereof) matter more than party afilliation. http://www.openourdemocracy.com/

E Scott Channell
E Scott Channell

I don't think so..... I've been an Independent all of my life and when your only choice is to vote for a candidate who puts Party politics above the concerns of the Country or of the Voters then you wind up with this mess..... it isn't the voters fault IMHO, it's the GOP and Democrat Party's fault.

Bernard Libby
Bernard Libby

They are the people we need to take our country back from.

James Hinkson
James Hinkson

there are enough educated people in the USA to vote with common sense and the parties eliminate common sense because you have to be in a party to vote for anyone then only for people in your party. What happened to the checks and equalizers that our constitution guarantees of our government. The constitution is not at fault or outdated it is the people in our government that keep pushing change on us and We The People do not want the changes you are forcing on us. We want the delegates and electoral college done away with so our vote counts and the primaries need to be held just like the general election. everyone vote for whoever the want no matter the party affiliation.

Warren Donaldson
Warren Donaldson

Modern Progressive Liberalism is the greatest threat we face.

Warren Donaldson
Warren Donaldson

It is Socialism Communism Fascism and Totalitarianism all in one..administered via an eyedropper over decades.

Kelly Strole
Kelly Strole

Kind of tough when you don't even get to vote!

Jim McDermott
Jim McDermott

The independent party should put a candidate on the ballot.

Anatole Evans
Anatole Evans

Looking like things have to get worse before they get better! No Bernie Sanders to make it better, I vote Trump to make it worse! Tough Love! Change is coming! Getting very top heavy! Will not stay home and will not vote HRC! Anyone not shouting about our corrupt and broken political system is part of the problem! When I see HRC smile and pay lip service to what Bernie Sanders has been fighting for his whole political career it makes my blood boil! Clinton's done more damage to black families than the KKK! Do your home work on the private prison industry and the get tough on crime legislation and the resulting militarization of the police! HRC and Bill Clinton as guilty as sin!!! I think the notion that congress will work in harmony with HRC has been completely dispelled! Yes I think that revolution is going to be necessary!!! Without a revolution nothing changes! Question is who is energizing voters! Who is growing the voter base? Who will turn out young voters? Who will get voters out that traditionally don't vote? Who is getting the independent vote? By far Bernie Sanders is the best hope for meaningful change and HRC is the best candidate for more status quo and republican obstruction! Look at the polling trajectory of where Sanders started and how far HRC has fallen! Amazing and totally missing from the discussion! Hillary Clinton is asking us to believe the corrupting influence of money does not change congressional bills and votes! She is asking us to believe the one percent are spending billions in lobbying for no reason! If you are buying this I got some things I would like to sell you!!! Yes the media blackout is in full effect! Check out Trump coverage Vs. Sanders!!! Guns and abortion! Keeping the people distracted and stuck on stupid! Divide and conquer! Only rich lives matter? Stand up to Hill first!! Trump is next! About as fair and balanced as the Corporate media! Feel the Bern! The two party system has been playing the same game for forty years! The only ones benefiting and getting what they want is the one percent! Just a trending news story brought to you by repetition creates reality inc. Also brought to you by just ignore Bernie Sanders inc. Not all that different from how Bill Cosby handled these questions! Bill Clinton is just a much better liar! Check out the list of allegations and the number of women making them! I believe victims and I don't trust the Clintons! Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby used power, intimidation, and a persona larger than life to silence a lot of women! Just wrong! Rape was part of the allegations and money was paid out! How many women need to come forward before we believe them? HRC is enabler in chief!

Dennis Thering
Dennis Thering

In my more paranoid moments, I believe the establishment militarized the police AFTER most WWII vets passed away because they were afraid of them.