February 15, 2013

The Kardashians voted: Now you have no Excuse

November 6, 2012

The ever-preening reality stars, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian let it be known to their millions of fans via social media that they exercised their right to vote. While I find their celebrity status to be undeserved, I will give them credit for exercising their right. Leaving her fans in suspense, Kim Kardashian tweeted her 16,542,488 followers, “Sending in my absentee ballot now!!! Make sure you vote!!!!… I’m filling out my voting card in a room filled w people,everyone is telling me their opinions! Vote how YOU want.” I’ll forgive her butchery of the English language, Twitter only allows for a limited number of characters.

Sadly, the USA Today found that 90 million eligible voters plan to sit this election out. Their reasons vary from too busy, their enthusiasm is lacking or the always popular their vote won’t matter.

Sadly, the 90 million total who plan to sit this election out is up by 10 million from 2008. “The long-term trend tends to be awful,” Curtis Gans of the non-partisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate, told the USA Today. “There’s a lot of lack of trust in our leaders, a lack of positive feelings about political institutions, a lack of quality education for large segments of the public, a lack of civic education, the fragmenting effects of waves of communications technology, the cynicism of the coverage of politics — I could go on with a long litany.”

A lot of grumbling among Political Scientists is made of the fact that more people vote for American Idol winners than they do for President of the United States. While more or less true, who could blame them. American Idol is a lot more agreeable and tame to watch than a presidential race, especially this year’s race for the White House. The tone of this year’s campaign has become for lack of a better term, “nasty” and many voters undoubtedly are turned off by the fact that both the Romney and Obama campaigns and their affiliates will have spent several billion dollars to win the White House. And one should not discount the hundreds of thousands of television ads, ads on Hulu and other social media that have hit the airways in swing states over the past few days.

According to the New York Times, by September, the Obama campaign, the DNC and Priorities USA Action Super PAC will have raised $934 million and will have spent roughly $852 million and on the Republican side, the Romney campaign, the RNC and the Restore Our Future Super PAC will have raised $881 million and will have spent roughly $752 million to defeat Obama. These numbers have gone up by hundreds of millions of dollars.

While the amount spent to capture the White House is enormous, throughout the day on Tuesday Americans are essentially given the choice of voting for two men with vastly different ideologies and plans for the future. In some states voters will have the choice of voting for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Virgil Goode, although in most states the choice will be between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

While voters might decry the Citizens United case that essentially opened the gates for unlimited spending it is the system that we have and without Congressional action it is unlikely to change. The new norm will be enormously expensive presidential races. While it is probable that billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffet and the Koch brothers will play an influential role in future presidential races, they will not decide future races. Voters will decide who occupies the White House. Future presidential races, much like this one, will still be a choice between two candidates who much like Obama and Romney will be flawed. Romney is viewed as a plutocrat who has a tendency to flip flop. Obama is a weak incumbent who has led a weak economic recovery and whose tiresome claim is that Osama bin Laden is dead under his watch.

Whoever wins later today will confront enormous challenges from ending the war in Afghanistan responsibly to dealing with our enormous budget deficit. Both men will have to thread a needle and figure out how to broker deals with a potentially hostile Congress while still figuring out how to jump start job growth and invigorate an anemic housing market. Importantly, Romney or Obama will have to shape the US economy for the future that isn’t as reliant on manufacturing and that can compete in a globalized world. Who’s to say which man will be able to do that more competently. The election is both a referendum on Obama’s economic stewardship but also whether voters believe that Romney is better suited for the task.

Regardless of which man wins, he will likely govern from the middle out of necessity and due to the political environment on Capitol Hill. Neither will have a mandate to govern due to the likely very close finish and in many ways that is at it should be.

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