Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The silent majority?

In 1969, President Nixon popularized the expression "silent majority" when he appealed to the "great silent majority of my fellow Americans" who were not out protesting the Vietnam War. What intrigues me is that when it comes to the most basic participation in the American experiment in democracy is that there literally IS a silent majority.

This Tuesday (including early votes also), a minority of a mere quarter and no more than a third of Americans will cast a ballot for the next president. Although voter turnout has been up in the past two cycles (61.6% in 2008), turnout has usually hovered just above 50%, and in 1996 voter turnout was actually at 49%.

But that's not all of us, that's just a percentage of registered voters. Now there are some Americans who are not old enough to vote, and there are some who are ineligible because they have not been naturalized as citizens or they have lost the right to vote by committing a felony. But there are also just a lot of Americans who decline to participate and never even register to vote, much less cast a ballot.

In 2008, there were roughly 129.4 million votes cast out of a total US population of 304.3 million. That's means only 42.5% of Americans cast a ballot in 2008; in 2004, it was 41.3%; and in 2000, it was merely 35.9%. In 1996, only 17.5% of Americans voted to put President Clinton back into office!

Do we deserve meaningful change, reform, etc., if the majority of us remain silent?

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