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Forget about cats being the epitome of indifference (it’s not my line — I stole it from The Big Bang Theory). In 2014, it’s the American voter who, given the choice between red and blue, seems to be trending blasé.
Consider this rundown by Gallup’s Frank Newport, who notes that, compared to the 2010 midterm election, we should be adding Prozac to the list of Obamacare’s giveaways — a 13-point drop in voter thought given to the election, an 18-point falloff in motivation, a 9-point drop in enthusiasm.
Newport cites the usual suspects — voter distate is being channeled into apathy rather than action (in part, because of the disconnect between voters loathing Congress but liking their particular representative); divided government means voters have not one but two parties at which to direct their frustration.
And, citing a Gallup October ranking of the most important problems facing the country today (Obamacare itself not being an option — instead, the generic “healthcare”), he points to the lack of a single topic dominating 2014’s landscape.
Then again, it’s not like we didn’t see one coming.
Voter turnout in the 25 states with primaries in the first half of the year was down 18% from the 2010 midterm vote, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. In raw numbers: almost 123 million Americans were eligible to vote in those primaries; about 18 million of them, or one in seven, bothered to cast a ballot.
And now, a word from California where you’ll find “apathy” right before “Apple” in the Golden State’s dictionary — voter indifference being a way of political life here in 2014.
Consider these numbers from this week’s PPIC poll:
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown: 52%
Republican Neel Kashkari: 36%
2014 voter enthusiasm in California: 40%
2010 voter enthusiasm in California: 53%
In 2014, Californians very/fairly closely following news about the candidates: 18%=34%=52%
In 2010, Californians very/fairly closely following news about the candidates: 39%+50%=89%.
The culprit here:
You can go after Kashkari, whose financially-strapped campaign rules out the kind of aggressive media campaign needed to make a dent in California’s electorate. One of Kashkari’s big issues is the Vergara v. California court decision on teacher tenure. But absent a multi-million-dollar television buy, most California voters think of Vergara as the actress on Modern Family, not arguably one of the most important California legal matters in recent times.
Instead, a lion’s share of the blame has to be laid at the doorstep of the Governor’s Office.
In 2014, Jerry Brown’s run a campaign that offers little insight into what he’d do in a second term (revisit Prop 13; make permanent Prop 30; continue to hold the line against spend-happy liberals in the State Legislature or, since he’s a lame-duck, let them go hog wild?).
To the extent that Brown’s on the air and in Californians’ living rooms, it’s to pimp for this year’s Props 1 & 2 — a $7.1 billion water bond and a rainy-day fund (if PPIC’s numbers are to be believed, the former should pass; the latter is struggling).
Brown did agree to one gubernatorial debate, as is the protocol for gubernatorial incumbents (well, when they’re ahead). But the “one and done” was back in September, just a fews days after Labor Day and neatly coinciding with the opening night of the NFL season so as to minimize interest. Since then, California’s governor has been selective in his media appearances.
Not to mention a little full of himself, at times. When asked recently about the significance of teacher-tenure reform, Brown haughtily dismissed the movement as “ephemeral.”
In short, the governor hasn’t served his people well in terms of giving them a campaign worthy of their attention. The underfunded Republican challenger is the equivalent of the does-it-or-doesn’t-it-make-a-sound tree falling in the forest.
Small wonder the Golden State is in snooze mode.
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