I’ve been noticing a few former ward members posting on social media about being part of the “silent majority” in our country; they are huge Trump supporters. The use of this phrase reminds me of the term “moral majority” that came of age in the 1970s, when conservatism was resurging in response to movements like feminism and civil rights, resulting in the election of Ronald Reagan.

In 1979, the Reverend Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority to combat “amoral liberals,” drug abuse, “coddling” of criminals, homosexuality, communism, and abortion. The Moral Majority represented the rise of political activism among organized religion’s radical right wing.

https://quizlet.com/62124972/chapter-31-flash-cards/

The so-called Moral Majority ended in the late 80s, but its roots run deep in the Republican Party, resurfacing in the Trump parades and rallies so familiar to us during the last four years. To channel my inner Mike Myers’ Coffee Talk: “the silent majority is neither silent, nor a majority. Discuss.” The Republican party knows very well that they are not a majority in the U.S., as evidenced by their leaked strategy to suppress votes, a strategy that Trump pretty openly explained in his rallies and interviews leading up to the election. The fewer voters we have, the more likely Republicans win. The more voters, the more like Democrats win.

Voter suppression isn’t even necessary for Republicans to win, though, thanks to the electoral college which gives an increasing advantage to conservative voters:

There have only been four inversions in presidential elections since 1836. Two such electoral inversions occurred in Republican George W. Bush’s victory over Al Gore in 2000, and Republican Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016.

https://www.newsweek.com/abolish-electoral-college-favors-republicans-over-democrats-future-presidential-elections-study-1464834

An “inversion” in an election is when the electoral college result is the opposite of the popular vote, and according to the above mentioned study, inversions that favor Republicans are likely in 65% of close elections.

Around a third of registered voters in the U.S. (34%) identify as independents, while 33% identify as Democrats and 29% identify as Republicans, according to a Center analysis of Americans’ partisan identification based on surveys of more than 12,000 registered voters in 2018 and 2019.

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/26/what-the-2020-electorate-looks-like-by-party-race-and-ethnicity-age-education-and-religion/

So why don’t we just go by the popular vote? The reason is not really that complicated. Other wealthy nations do align more closely with the popular vote. The US debated this question at its inception, and the worry was that there was no way for the majority of citizens (in the late 1700s anyway) to get access to news sources. Another factor is that states were tetchy after the Civil War about preserving their identity and representation after seceding and then begrudgingly coming back together as a union. Particularly in the South, which lost the Civil War (although there is apparently still some question about that in certain states), this was a concession to their resentment over their loss, and a way to keep them from seceding again. It was also a way for them to continue to oppress and repress former slaves without uppity high-minded Northerners forcing them to live as equals. [1]

The most recent reason we don’t ditch this antiquated approach is that Republicans benefit from it (at the expense of the will of the people), and it’s in the Constitution. Trying to get something like this changed is usually an exercise in futility, even though nearly everyone who looks at it agrees it would be a more fair way to approach elections.

Another aspect of the election that is problematic, as this election is revealing, is that individual states all have different voting rules. In my native PA, they don’t even start counting mail in votes until the day of the election. Some counties literally never count them unless they are required to break a tie. Why does it feel like they are just being lazy? Some states require witnesses to your ballot, some do signature verification, some have multiple envelopes you have to seal your ballot into, and we all know about Florida’s infamous dangling chads. Having different states run things differently is itself problematic. Why can’t we administer elections the same way across the whole country? Why can’t we at least establish national standards that prevent some of the ridiculous methods of some of the states? Why can’t we prevent states from disenfranchising specific populations as they choose?

When I lived in Singapore, my Australia team mentioned that they had a national holiday coming up; it was their election day. It was like Independence Day in the US. There were barbecues and people showing up to vote in Speedos. It was a raucous good time. Throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate! Their voting percentage is usually over 95%. In the US, only 55.5% of the voting age population voted in 2016. As a result, they have a much higher voter engagement, and surprisingly, a much more responsive government. They specifically seek to encourage marginalized populations to vote, including the homeless, those in prison, those in hospital, and indigenous populations. They see democracy as participatory, a way to build the society people want together. [2]

One reason we don’t do this in the US is that we have such a strong libertarian streak. People don’t want to be told what to do by government, even though voting is literally the opposite of this: voting is us telling the government what we want it to do.

We’ve somehow bought the line that politics exists apart from the will of the people, as something that happens to us, not that we create, and that the will of the government has to be suppressed or our own freedoms will be gone. Sure, in 1776, King George and Britain was a pretty bad government in terms of freedom and representation, but they are no longer in the picture. This simplistic view of government only serves to stymie what we can accomplish as a society, though. We’ve also shorted ourselves in terms of what our government can accomplish by not participating and allowing marginalized groups to become even more marginalized.

I’ve always considered myself an independent, mostly because neither party represents my view fully. Before 2016, my biggest fear in voting for a Republican would be the open derision of the taxi drivers of the world (let’s call that foreign diplomacy). My biggest fear in voting for a Democrat was that they would take my vote as tacit support of any half-baked scheme they could cook up.

Since 2016, particularly in the wake of Mitch McConnell’s actions, my fear of the right has grown. As a socially liberal person, I would prefer to have a judiciary which functions as the last bastion for the rights of individuals, and now we’ve got the opposite of that. As a person who runs a small business, I would like a little more thoughtfulness about healthcare than what we saw with the ACA, and a whole lot more thoughtfulness than we ever had before that. Mostly, I would like to get back to the place where we quit voting two-party only, and we start talking to one another and trying to find solutions that are on common ground again.

Our conversations in this country have gotten dumber, not smarter. A lot dumber. We have become more tribal and less informed. I have to think that a lot of this would be changed by having everyone vote. We don’t even know what that would look like, it would be so radically different. But I do know who thinks they are benefitting from the suppression of the vote, and they aren’t being silent about it anymore. They are saying the quiet part out loud. We should listen.

There’s been a lot of debate about whether felons should be able to vote. Reasonable people could come out on different sides in this discussion. It could be that felons who’ve served their time and are free again should be able to vote, but even in that case, some states are requiring they pay fines before they can vote. Personally, I’d like to suggest that all felons and prisoners be allowed to vote.

When the goal is to get everyone to vote, we change from gaming the system to get elected to winning in the marketplace of ideas again. To get the vote, you have to care about what the voters, the populace, care about. If you don’t convince them your plans will help them, you don’t win.

I was also recently in Navajo Nation which despite being in Arizona was actually not at all like being in Arizona due to massive Covid outbreaks. They were taking temperatures outside every establishment. They have suffered disproportionately as a result of their separate status. There has been talk about making Navajo Nation a state to improve their representation in US government. Likewise, Puerto Rico, in the wake of being thrown a roll of paper towels by Trump after being devastated by a hurricane, is suddenly discussing voting for statehood, something they have previously opposed.

The last issue with our democracy as a result of this conservative minority that thinks it’s a majority is an incredibly conservative SCOTUS that does not reflect the will of the people. There’s been talk about “court packing” which actually means “court expansion” or adding seats to the SCOTUS so that the representation is more even between conservatives and progressives. However, my opinion is that if we do that, every President will just add more seats, resulting in the same problems all over again. Instead, we should consider two things:

  1. Term limits of 18 years, resulting in every POTUS appointing two judges per Presidential term. I would not grandfather ANY of them in. Some of them should have been gone ages ago.
  2. Fully paid retirement so judges will not be mad about retiring. Reducing retirement to half pay is the main reason nobody wants to retire anymore from the bench. They don’t want their pay to be cut.

What do you think?

  • Do you agree we should try to get everyone to vote or are you happy to only have 55% of people voting?
  • Would you add states to improve representation for indigenous people and territories like Puerto Rico (it’s up to them to vote, but still)?
  • Would you allow prisoners to vote? Felons? Why or why not?
  • Would you establish national voting process standards for the states to follow or continue to allow states to have their own separate rules? Why or why not?
  • Would you support a national election day holiday to get people to vote, making it fun like a party?
  • Are you happy with this week’s election process or would you like to see changes? If so, what?

Discuss.

[1] Slavery really is the fundamental American sin, the gift that keeps on giving.

[2] Yes, you can technically be fined ($20). Still, that’s less than the original ACA mandate fee.