It seems like hardly a month passes without yet another international or national study or survey revealing how America, as the “shining light” of democracy and unlimited economic possibilities, is revealed as lagging the rest of the civilized world in any and every possible category. If America is not at the bottom of the list for dependable infrastructure, access to healthcare, or the number of people in the middle class, it is a world leader in the number of children living in dire poverty, most gun-related homicides, most incarcerations, and a humiliatingly ignorant religious and racist population.
Now another survey reveals that as the one-time exemplar of democracy, America is near the very bottom of industrialized nations with a truly pathetic voter turnout record. Of all the recent sad reports about America, this one can be laid at the feet of Republicans and their moneyed supporters who, with valuable assistance from a conservative Supreme Court, work tirelessly and spend unlimited amounts of cash to prevent Americans from participating in the electoral process.
Before perusing the one-time ” world’s leading democracy” and its truly pathetic voter turnout record, it is worth looking back at comments from Senator Bernie Sanders that he recorded for posterity nearly ten years ago in the 2006 documentary “American Blackout.” In the documentary, the filmmakers recounted the then-astonishing voter suppression tactics being employed to prevent a large percentage of the population from participating in America’s storied representative democracy. Even though it has been nearly ten years since the film’s release, if then-Representative Bernie Sanders knew what the Koch brothers intended in funding outright voter suppression efforts, he certainly would have called them and their legislative arm the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) out by name. Instead, Sanders talked about voter apathy and cited “the people who control politics” as the media, large corporations, and the wealthy people as those most invested in keeping Americans from participating in the election process.
Bernie Sanders explained that the rich and corporations do not want all Americans to vote. He said, “The truth of the matter is that the media, large corporations, the people who control politically our country today do not want you to participate. That’s only bad for them. They want a low turnout of primarily upper middle class people, they want big money to dominate the political process. Their nightmare is that young people, lower income people, working people jump into the political process. They do not want that.” As everyone now understands in retrospect, corporations and the wealthy Koch-types’ worst nightmare came true in 2008 when young people, people of color, working and low income people did jump into the political process electing Democrats to control both houses of Congress and the White House that elicited a ferocious response from the Koch brothers as archetypes of the corporate and wealthy elite Sanders described.
Since now-Senator Sanders’ short comment on voting has been manifest a hundred fold, everything he said ten years ago has morphed into more than the wealthy elite just “not wanting people to participate” in the voting process or “wanting big money to dominate the political process.” In fact, after the 2008 election of Barack Obama with larger numbers of Americans heading to the polls, including more young people, more lower income people (code for people of color), and working people, the wealthy and their corporations went to the Supreme Court to win the right to inject unlimited amounts of money in politics, and paid ALEC to write and pass outright voter restriction and suppression laws in Republican controlled states across the nation; particularly in the racist former-Confederate states. So, exactly what was the result of the Koch’s investment in ALEC and the Supreme Court?
According to a new Pew survey released recently, among all developed nations on Earth, America lagged every nation in voter turnout than three; Japan, Chile, and Switzerland. Americans voter turnout was less than all of the other 37 member nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Pew measured voter turnout by comparing the number of votes cast as a percentage of eligible voting-age population. According to that measure, America landing 31st among the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development whose member nations are mostly highly developed democratic states.
America’s turnout in 2012 was 53% and the three highest ranking nations were Belgium (87%), Turkey (86%), and Sweden (83%). America’s low voter turnout has predictable consequences as the last midterm election confirms; lower voter turnout always benefits Republicans because not surprisingly, the people that do not turn out to vote generally have “more progressive views.”
This does not necessarily mean that registered Democratic voters are not showing up, although in the last midterm election that appeared to be the case, it just means that Americans who generally support progressive agendas like fair wages, income equality, worker protections, social programs, and domestic spending on infrastructure and education have been systematically shut out of the electoral process. Why? Because as Bernie Sanders said in 2006; it is a nightmare for the wealthy and corporations if those people turn out and vote because they dependably vote for Democrats.
Republicans have made no secret they prefer smaller voter turnouts and it goes back to 1991 when Mitch McConnell said that not only is he “not particularly disturbed by lower voter turnout,” he thought it was “healthy if less people participated in the political process.” Recently, more Republicans have openly commented that they think any effort to get more Americans to participate in the voting process is “shocking and underhanded.” In Republican states voter ID laws, restrictions on voter registration efforts, fewer polling places, and outright voter suppression laws have contributed to the low voter turnouts.
Senator Bernie Sanders is no prophet by any means, but his remarks nearly ten years ago about corporations and the rich not wanting all Americans to vote were not only accurate; they were grossly understated as the results of the Pew poll certainly revealed. Of all the surveys and research results portraying America as a second-rate nation have borne out over the past few years, this recent survey is particularly humiliating because this country is alleged to be the world’s leading democracy; a distinction Republicans and the Kochs have spent six years and no small amount of corporate cash flushing down the oligarch’s toilet.