Thursday, November 13, 2014

No Signal

In my personal life I’m pretty lame at reading signals…especially in the romance department. I remember once I was sitting in a car with a potential mate and we spent over an hour talking...the kiss that happened totally surprised me...though it was the natural evolution in the mating ritual. There’s some sort of obtuseness around me in that arena that keeps my therapist on her toes. As much as there’s an opportunity for improvement personally, in work situations it’s nearly the opposite – I’m pretty astute in reading the signals and maneuvering the nuances of various situations. I wish that our political leaders could say the same.

The 2014 mid-term elections have provided plenty of fodder for the simple conclusions that most pundits provide these days. “Crushing defeat,” and “Devastating loss” are how some of the headlines have read. Even the generally impartial Wikipedia describes the “sweeping gains” of the GOP. While some races are still being counted and runoffs are happening, as of 11/13/14 there was a net gain of 6 seats in the Senate (16% of the seats up for election, 6% of the total) and 13 seats in the House (3%). Most of the ‘contested’ races were close – all within 10% margin of victory. Crushing? Not quite.

Some analysts have stumbled upon the more important statistic: turnout. “Nationwide voter turnout was just 36.4%, down from 40.9% in the 2010 midterms and the lowest since the 1942 elections.” Turnout is calculated based on registered voters, not eligible. 30% of people eligible to vote are not even registered – that's 59,761,000 people.

Applying the eligible voter calculation against the actual turnout (i.e. reducing it by the 30% of the population who isn’t registered) 25.48% of the public voted in 2014. To win an election requires just a majority of votes, so just 13% of the eligible voters make the decision. Given that most of the contested races were within 10% of each other – the mandate is thanks to some 15% of the population. Not quite sweeping.

Both Republicans & Democrats look to the top line numbers, not the bottom line. They see more victors from one party than the other. In the thrill of victory House and Senate leaders renewed their commitment to repeal the Affordable Care Act – President Obama’s signature (and sole?) legislative accomplishment. He would no doubt veto any such legislation if it reached his desk. There aren't enough votes to override a veto. The President has indicated he will use Executive Action on immigration which promptly resulted in the GOP wagging their fingers and saying “don’t you dare!”

President Obama spoke to the nation on Nov. 5  saying "To those of you who voted, I hear you," Obama said in his first public remarks since the election. "To those who didn't vote, I hear you too."

In 1969 newly elected President Richard Nixon spoke to the nation regarding the War in Vietnam. He summed up his pitch: “And so tonight-to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans-I ask for your support.”

75% of American’s opted out of this election – despite (or perhaps because of) the $3.7 billion spent to “sway” them. It averages out to some $25 per vote. The President has determined that this means that folks are happy with him and his policies because they didn’t come out to vote for change. The GOP claims that people are so disgusted that they didn’t bother to come out. Somebody's not getting the signal: 92% disapprove of Congress and three-quarters of American’s opted out of the process. Something's gotta change.

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