A disingenuous year for elections

Photo courtesy of CV Observer | Copy Editor Ryan Kambich analyzes why voters are not enthusiastic about the 2018 Midterm elections.

The beginning of 2018 marks the start of another arduous national campaign season. This November, the entire House of Representatives, along with a third of the Senate, 36 governors and countless state and local offices and ballot initiatives will come under our collective review for a new mandate. This should be an exciting time for our democratic society. In just 11 months, we, the people, will gather to make our voices heard in the offices that will steer the direction of our society’s public life.

And yet, the promise of the 2018 election feels somewhat hollow. As with so many election cycles in recent years, the powers that be now more than ever seem unreachable, impossibly distant from the democratic voices of the people.
In some ways, the ideological bluster of the next year already feels disingenuous given the detached circumstances we find ourselves in. As ever, antidemocratic powers will be out in force, chief among them runaway campaign contributions, voter suppression laws and partisan gerrymandering. Each will serve to smother the democratic voices of the public this November, frustrating the American citizenry along class, race and party lines.

First, wildly reckless campaign contributions will tip the scales in countless races during the upcoming year. Especially in primary elections, where campaigns are young with tight budgets, a big donation by a wealthy backer or support from a large Political Action Committee (PAC) could mean the difference between legitimate contention and relegation to the political ash heap of history.

Our election system’s insistence on private patronage ensures that candidates favorable to the wealthy, to those who can afford the luxury of buying politicians, are the ones most likely to make it to office next January. The electoral power of money draws a deep and troubling rift between those few individuals capable of influencing elections and policy matters, and the rest of the electoral body.

Second, voter suppression laws seek to disadvantage the minority vote and thereby muffle our nation’s democratic voice. Voter ID laws have become all the rage in the past few years. Especially in the South, policies aimed at tackling the spectre of “voter fraud” will be in full effect this November.

This strike at a “bogeyman” is laughable considering just 0.000002% of ballots (four in total) were proven to be fraudulent during the whole of the 2016 election, according to a report by the Washington Post.

While voter ID laws do nothing to mitigate nonexistent voter fraud, they do have the curious effect of decreasing Black and minority voter turnout. As countless studies and testimonials have demonstrated, these voters are less likely to have the necessary forms of state ID required by such laws and so are disincentivized to turn out to vote. Voter ID laws amount to our generation’s poll taxes and literacy tests of old – a legalized way to disenfranchise the American public along racial lines and stifle the democratic voice.

Finally, partisan redistricting (gerrymandering) enfeebles the act of voting across the nation. By allowing for the partisan drawing of electoral districts on the federal and state level, we have in effect allowed politicians to pick their constituencies, ensuring they represent districts amicable to their views and hostile to those of opponents.
The result is a drastic loss of competitiveness in elections. What’s more, the votes of citizens in specially drawn districts become diluted and disconnected, unable to provoke real change in their partisan constituencies.

2018, I fear, will serve as yet another example of broken democratic action in our country. There is energy and excitement in this year’s midterm – the American public is galvanized by the past year of horror show politics.

Unfortunately, powerful measures to dampen the democratic roar exist and will foreseeably continue to make a mockery of good faith elections going forward.

Ryan Kambich is a junior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and economics double major. He is a copy editor for the Newswire from Deerfield, Ill.