An Anti-Political Year

The final citywide turnout in Chicago’s primary elections last week was under 10%. I believe that’s the lowest in the city’s history. At just over 10% the turnout in the precinct where I worked was actually higher than the citywide average. We’re either dramatically over-registered or voters just plain weren’t interested. Alexis Simendinger of RealClearPolitics thinks there’s a strong anti-incumbent sentiment:

Less than eight months before a closely divided electorate decides which candidates they’ll send to Congress, Democrats vying for House and Senate seats face a downbeat populace that may stay home in November, while Republican candidates find themselves challenged to unite around a common vision beyond opposition to Obamacare.

Nearly five years after the end of the Great Recession, Americans express continued pessimism about the economy and the direction of the country, challenging the party that holds the White House

The survey, conducted jointly by the Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners, found that likely voters hold both parties in generally low regard and are perilously amenable to the idea of bouncing their own members of Congress out of office.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who helped unpack the data during a media event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, described voters’ mindset this year as “ornery.”

“It’s an anti-incumbent year,” she warned.

In an anti-incumbent year, voters show up at the polls to vote the rascals out. If Chicago is any gauge, it’s an anti-political year. The voters won’t show up at all.

IMO that sort of mood actually favors incumbents. They’re more likely to have at least a little organized support to get their vote out.

Still, with 10% turnout anything can happen. Getting 5% of registered voters to vote for you could conceivably allow even fringe candidates with very highly motivated supporters to get themselves elected.

Related: Thomas Edsall, “How Strong Will the Democratic Backlash Be?” Again, if Chicago is any gauge there won’t be a “Democratic backlash”. It isn’t unknown for the number of Republican election judges in primary elections to exceed the number of registered Republicans here. Talk about your “Republicans in name only”!

I do wonder how much of a monkeywrench the incompetent debut of will throw into things. It’s darned hard for technocrats to run on competence with that kind of record or to run as a reform candidate when you’re an incumbent.

7 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw

    Dave, how many truly contested elections were on the ballots in your precinct? As an independent, I don’t vote in primaries, but depending on how you measure competitiveness, I’m not sure there was more than one competitive election (sheriff on Republican ballot).

  • Maybe about a third. I didn’t snag a sample ballot so I’m not really sure.

  • ... didn’t fail. It’s user error only. So says Harry Reid, and he oaths most honest man in America.

  • ...

    Anti-politics is a better way to put, but I don’t think it’s quite right either. It’s an anti-business-as-usual sentiment, and frankly voting for the usual suspects from the other party doesn’t seem all that worthwhile.

  • jan

    “…..and frankly voting for the usual suspects from the other party doesn’t seem all that worthwhile.”

    So, what do you suggest, Ice? Do nothing? That’ll show all those elite politicos out there, won’t it.

  • ...

    Jan, voting for Mitch McConnell to be majority leader is pretty much indistinguishable from voting for Harry Reid for majority leader.

    And I propose doing the same thing for the politicians of this country as they’re doing for me — piss on ’em.

  • ...

    But don’t worry about it, Jan. My votes won’t count anyway, as I am in safely Democratic districts at all but the state level. Yer gettin’ a radical black Democratic Congressman that hates white people and America from my district no matter what. (Of course, except for the black part that describes all Democrats.)
    And at the state level I can either vote for the current Republican governor or I can vote for the guy that was the Republican governor before him. It’s just a question of whether I want my governor to work for big business or the trial lawyers, ’cause neither one of the bastards will work either for me or the betterment of the general welfare.

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