Apathy And Its Consequences

All Democrats who live where I live expect our candidates to lose each and every election. That’s just the way it is here in ruralish Southwest Missouri. This year, of course, was no exception. Ozark Billy got almost 64% of the vote against Jim Evans, the valiant Democrat who received only 29%.

Most of Missouri’s eight U.S. House districts produce pretty lopsided election results, six of them going for Republicans and only two for Democrats. That’s the way the Republican-dominated legislature designed these districts. They are heavily partisan with predictable results.

But there is a fact that stuns the soul of every democracy-loving Missourian, or at least it should. Democrats got 41.8% of all votes cast in Missouri’s eight U.S. House races in 2012, when turnout was 65.7%, yet it was only possible for them to end up with 25% of the seats, which were essentially capped at two. Republicans got 54.6% of all votes in House races across the state in 2012 but ended up with 75% of the seats. Some of us don’t think that is very democratic, but that’s the way it is.

This year turnout in Missouri was a paltry 35.2%. Think about that. A little more than half of the registered voters in this state who voted in the presidential election two years ago bothered to vote in this one. That amounts to 608,119 fewer Democrats and 627,051 fewer Republicans who didn’t vote, all things being equal. Those numbers look like they might be an advantage for Democrats, since more Republicans bugged out this year than Democrats. But it is a matter of percentages.

In 2012, as I mentioned, Democrats got 41.8% of House votes and Republicans got 54.6%. But in 2014, with the dropout of voters, Democrats only got 35.9% of House votes and Republicans got 58.8%. The lesson: voter apathy hurts Democrats in states like Missouri much more than it hurts Republicans. (Another lesson is that even just getting 35.9% of House votes would, if this were a perfectly tuned democracy, get Democrats an additional House seat, but that’s another matter.)

As an example of how this phenomenon can affect individual races, let’s look at House District 5, which comprises a big chunk of the Kansas City metro area, as well as some suburbs in Jackson County (by the way, that’s where many Mormons believe the Garden of Eden was and where many believe God will return to establish the New Jerusalem—I kid you not). Normally this seat is a very safe one for the Democrat. Emanuel Cleaver, an African-American pastor, was a city councilman in Kansas City for 12 years and mayor of the town for eight years. He first won this House seat in 2004 with 55% of the vote, and has since faced the same Republican opponent, Jacob Turk, five times. Yep. Five times.

Cleaver, who is fairly liberal, beat Turk, who is really conservative, in 2006 and 2008 with 64% of the vote. But he only beat him in 2010 with 53% of the vote. Remember that year? Of course you do. It’s the Democratic Party’s ongoing nightmare. It was a very low turnout year for Democrats, especially in Kansas City, which that year saw only 38% of its registered voters show up. In Jackson County, with all the suburbs, the turnout was almost 48%. One of those suburbs was Independence, Harry Truman’s hometown. Turk beat Cleaver there. Thus, with that turnout disparity, you can see why Cleaver only got 53% and Turk got his then-best mark of 44%. In 2012, with a turnout of 65.7%, Cleaver rebounded and beat Turk with 60.5% of the vote.

Now let’s finish up with this year’s race, which, you will remember, featured a statewide turnout of 35.2%. Cleaver and Turk tangled again and Cleaver only got 51.5% of the vote versus Turk’s 45%, his best showing ever. The Libertarian got 3.5%. Now, it’s true that Cleaver still won the race by 6.5 points, but it’s also true that had voters had a different Republican candidate, one with new ideas and a new face and one that didn’t have any Libertarian pulling votes away from him, Cleaver may have gone down to defeat. That could have happened to a long-time and popular Kansas City Democratic officeholder.

It’s this simple: No Democrat should struggle to get 51.5% of the vote in a metro area like Kansas City. But apathy is not just poison for the soul—for the soul of democracy—it is especially dangerous for the soul of the Democratic Party here in Missouri and elsewhere.

Dumb Republicans

Conservative Republicans, it being their nature, say and do some dumb things. Take, for instance, this one:

A Michigan Republican with a criminal record for breaking into cars and masturbating is urging residents to move out of state to avoid the “homosexual agenda.”

You’ll be happy to know that this guy is running for a seat in the Michigan legislature. And, if you live in Michigan, you’ll be happy to know that he thinks “as long as there are those that love God here, we can win souls and see God move in this city and state.” Yes, in case you didn’t know, legislating is all about winning souls watching God “move.”

And speaking of God moving, mysteriously he was moved yesterday to reveal to the Huffington Post a video he shot of Joni Ernst, the testicle-hating senatorial candidate from Iowa, telling folks at some gun rally in 2012 that she packed heat and reserved the right to use it against “the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” As many have now pointed out, this is the same wacky ball-hater that wants to castrate the rights of women to control their own reproductive health.

But even slightly more sober conservatives say and do dumb things. Chris Christie recently said to his Chamber of Commerce pals that he is “tired of hearing about the minimum wage.” Then, after he realized how dumb it was to say something so dumb, he said something equally dumb:

My comments are never almost universally interpreted the way I mean them.

And we can see why.

But some Republican conservatives not only say dumb things, they say dumb and dangerous things, things that scare and mislead people. Rand Paul, plagiarist and self-certified ophthalmologist, said recently that the Obama administration has inaccurately described Ebola to the public and has “tried to downplay the transmissibility” of the disease, when, in the opinion of the self-certified ophthalmologist, Ebola “is something that appears to be very easy to catch.”

Man, that level of numb-headed irresponsibility makes Chris Christie look good, which is no small feat.

Speaking of small feats, there is my congressman Ozark Billy Long. Let me show you a still from a campaign commercial that is airing here in Hooterville, and I should tell you this commercial was actually “Approved by Billy Long. Paid for by Billy Long for Congress”:

billy long commercial

Shouldn’t the Democrat running against Long, Jim Evans, be running that ad? I mean, Long is bragging that he did something 56 times that failed. He was recently accused of being an ineffective legislator and it turns out his own ad proves it! Brilliant stuff that.

On the darker side of local politics around these parts, I present to you a scene from a campaign commercial running here in Joplin put out by Rep. Lynn Jenkins. She is a Republican from Kansas who represents my old home town and who, in August of 2009, told Kansans that “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.” Here is a screen shot of the ad I saw last night:

jenkins ad against wakefield

Just who is that woman in the ad? And who is that shifty and scary looking negro standing behind her? Well, the woman is Democrat Margie Wakefield, who happens to be Jenkins’ opponent and who happens to be giving Jenkins a run for her money. And I think you all know who the other guy is. He is The Scary Negro himself. And, man, doesn’t he really look like he’s up to no good? Maybe he has a gun in her back or maybe he’s about to stick a shiv in her. Maybe he’s about to rob her and take her money or, God forbid, something worse like force her to support ObamaCare. What other reason would he be standing so close and looking so creepy?

Sad thing is, this ad doesn’t really qualify as another dumb thing conservative Republicans are saying or doing these days. It’s actually pretty smart, in a Southern strategy political sense, to remind people in mostly rural Kansas that The Scary Negro is out there, ready to do something ugly. But whatever ugly thing that Barack Obama might do between now and the end of his term, it won’t be nearly as ugly as that ad.

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