Maddocks: Voters’ approval of voters falls to record low
Barely two weeks after the midterm elections, voters are already expressing frustration – this time with themselves.
According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, just 12 percent of Americans now approve of the way they are exercising their hard-earned right to vote. And nearly four of five voters surveyed believe they have the country headed in the wrong direction.
Like many, Amy Simpson, a real estate broker in Kansas, says she is exasperated by a do-nothing electorate, of which she has played an important part over the years.
“I’ve had it up to here with us,” she said, holding a ballot-marking pen to level of her chin. “It’s time to throw us bums out. Who elected us kingmaker?”
Simpson said she is convinced that she and others like her, who exercise their precious right at the ballot box, are too out of touch with the concerns of ordinary citizens.
She points out that Americans have sent a clear message that they want the $7.25 hourly minimum wage raised. They don't think it's fair that fast-food workers are paid an average of $8.90 an hour and can't afford to take care of their families while fast-food workers in other countries get as much as $20 an hour. And then those who vote go out and elect a raft of representatives and senators who are adamantly opposed to raising the minimum wage.
Other voters seemed equally perplexed by the their choices, admitting that they don’t reflect the concerns of the majority of the country, which believes that the wave of gun violence, particularly in and around schools, calls out for more controls on gun registration; that climate change demands immediate action; and that immigration reform is long overdue.
“Did we really just do what we did?” wondered Derek Chalmers, as he ticked off the phalanx of newly elected office holders who oppose gun controls, deny climate science and have vowed not to work with President Obama on immigration.
“I guess we just did,” Chalmers said. “Those of us who vote aren’t just part of the problem. We are the problem.”
That level of self-loathing is highlighted in the recent poll, which shows that a majority of voters are disgusted with most of the choices they made at the ballot box. In the general breakdown of the broad repugnance felt, the electorate is slightly more disapproving of the Republican voters than they are of the Democrats, with just 19 percent approving of Republicans, compared with 28 percent that approve of Democrats.
And Republican voters, too, say they are more dissatisfied with their votes than are Democrats. Half of Republican voters say they disapprove of Republican voters in their neighborhood, while 43 percent of Democratic voters say they disapprove of their Democratic neighbors. Independents are slightly less approving of Republicans voters than Democrats.
Only 6 percent of registered voters say they would like to see most voters take part in the next election, while 84 percent say it’s time to give someone new a chance, a historic low for the New York Times/CBS poll.
Voter dissatisfaction with voters runs deep across both parties, with more than eight in 10 of Republicans and Democrats saying Congress isn’t doing enough to make it more difficult for them to vote.
Grace Peters, a retiree living in San Clemente, California, said she has seen a slow degradation of the political system from when she grew up during the era of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.
“While there were vigorous debates and some filibusters, generally, 40-some years ago there was more cooperation,” she said. “Voters used to be able to compromise and come together to make rational decisions even if those in office couldn’t.”
A Democrat who grew up in conservative Orange County in a family where politics were discussed often, Peters says she and her friends are dismayed by what is happening at voting stations across the country.
“Now I think that many voters are in it for the individual glory, they’re in it for themselves, and not for the citizens of the United States,” she said.
The voters’ current dissatisfaction with their voting record may or may not point to another “change” election in 2016. But for some, like Peters, another election may not change anything in the nation’s capital.
“I used to worry that those in power might try to take away my vote,” she said. “But now I am starting to worry they aren’t doing enough to stifle it.”
Philip Maddocks writes a weekly satirical column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.