Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.
— Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (27 November 1775)
A recent article in the New York Times reports record-low voter turnout in statewide primaries so far this year. Worse, voter participation has been steadily declining over four decades. And worse yet, Democrats are voting less often than Republicans. How are these trends playing out in Wayne County, Ohio? Let’s consider, for example, the rate of participation in this most recent primary. According to the Board of Elections:
A total of 9,146 Wayne County voters (unofficially) turned out to vote for the May 6, 2014 Primary Election. That was 12.6% of registered voters (72,594). By comparison, the 2010 Primary Election, which featured the same offices on the ballot (but more local and state issues), had 22,161 voters turnout or 29.91% of the registered voters (74,104).
In other words, only about one in eight Wayne County voters turned up at the polls last May. Granted, this was a primary election; and there were no hot-button issues at the county level. Still, that level of voter participation is absolutely dismal. And given what’s at stake in the coming November elections – at the local, state, and national levels – we desperately need a full-scale campaign to encourage more people to vote. In its report on nationwide voting trends, the New York Times offers the following interpretation: “Some might argue that [voters] feel powerless to affect real change, but failure to even vote suggests they’re not really interested in trying — or maybe they’re not really all that mad.” I think the Times is off base here. Most voters I know – especially, but NOT ONLY Democrats – are mad as hell about the corruption and inaction of Congress and most state governments. But they’ve also become cynical and demoralized about the elections process, and about the media who are supposed to keep us all informed. Uninspired and uninspiring candidates; platforms that are either too timid, too reckless, or essentially empty; big-moneyed interests secretly “buying” the candidates and policies that favor them; “journalists” who cherry-pick their data and spin their coverage; media “pundits” who talk down to their audiences and pander to their basest instincts; online “discussion” forums in which the same anonymous posters simply hurl the same tiresome insults at each other day after day… Democrats may be voting less because, in recent years, the powerful interests who pull strings behind the scenes have blunted almost every effort to implement a progressive agenda. We managed to elect Barack Obama, but he has been so hamstrung and vilified by the “machine” that his authority has been severely compromised. We managed to pass the Affordable Care Act, but the “machine” has dedicated itself to undermining, condemning, and dismantling it. Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land, but powerful initiatives to limit women’s reproductive choices are charging through Congress, the statehouses, the Supreme Court, and corporate boardrooms. Disaffected Progressives are hungry for the opportunity to make a difference. But many of us may have reached a state that psychologists call “learned helplessness.” We have become convinced that our gestures are futile. We desperately need spaces to come together to share and discuss ideas, brainstorm for strategies, organize for positive action – and just keep each other’s spirits up! We’re very fortunate in Wooster to have a real, bricks-and-mortar establishment that is dedicated to feeding the hungry voter: The First Amendment Public House on Liberty Street downtown. They have already hosted several lively, informative – and CIVIL — discussion forums. During this election year, we should support them in hosting many more. The ProWayne Forum, if you like, can be another, “virtual” public house where Wayne County voters can come together and work toward positive goals. I’ll prime the pump with some posts on political and social issues of particular interests to Progressives. Constructive comments, and suggestions for other topics, will be welcomed. Voices from all points on the political spectrum will be respected. Disagreement and debate will be encouraged. HOWEVER, certain ground rules must be observed. The Moderator will exclude from this forum:
- flagrant obscenities
- outright falsehoods (e.g., “Obama is a Muslim!”)
- personal insults, name-calling, death wishes or threats directed at another individual
- racial, sexual, or religious slurs
- contributions which generate only heat (rage, hatred) and no light (facts, arguments)