Politics: The home game


Are you registered to vote?

And, do you know when the next election day is happening?

Ok… good… glad to hear yes on both of those. Now the important stuff.

About 60% of voters aren’t going to show up in a few weeks. That’s what history says about national elections in non-presidential years. The mid-terms. Roughly 40% of eligible voters figure it’s important enough to show up for such votes. The rest stay away. The rest do other things.

Now look… I think we all know crazy things happen in elections. For instance, did you know that in 2010, the winner of the Rhode Island vote for governor took the office with a whopping 36% of the vote?

But here’s the scary part… the crazy part you might not readily see, even as it plays out in front of you… politics isn’t a vote for the masses. It’s a game. And usually a game for the few.

The past four presidential elections, turnout of voters has generally been accepted as 59%, 58%, 61% and 60%. (I say generally accepted because some voting totals are still not fully finalized even if winners have been certified.) Turnout rates in the mid-terms? 36%, 41%, 40% and 39%.

One out of every five possible voters disappear during midterms. (And two out of five don’t show at all.) The politicians know this. They have people on their campaign staffs studying this.

What do you need to do to be elected president?

Yes. Kind of a trick question. The answer is 270.

That’s the magic number. That’s what you have to get. And while you may not have readily recalled the number 270, you almost certainly know the reason. In the United States, the presidential elections are decided by the vote of an electoral college. A majority is needed in order to win, and that majority resides at the magic number of 270.

Now, let’s keep in mind that a governor was elected with slightly more than a third of the vote, plus the idea of a magic number of 270. Let’s play extremes…

If we accept that roughly 40% of voters are going to head out in a mid-term election year, and then add in that a vote total of 36.1% was a winner (which, coincidentally was in a mid-term year)… that means you could frame it that an official in a fairly significant position was elected by earning a whopping 14% of the vote. Yup… a 36.1% portion of 40% overall equals 14.44%.

If we accept that 270 is the magic number, it only takes 11 states to be elected president. The combination of electoral votes from California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and New Jersey add up to 270 these days. So, in an all-or-nothing way, you could win those states by narrow margins, be completely demolished in the returns from every other place (remember, the District of Columbia gets electors), and you’d be planning your inauguration.

Am I being fair? No. Of course not.

If the other 60% show up to vote, some… if not most… of that would break down in a similar fashion between the candidates.

There are histories for all of the states, and I feel fairly confident in saying all 11 noted a moment ago have not gone the same way in any one presidential election for many, many years.

But the ideas are sound. It’s a game.

Absolutely no candidate that is serious about being elected plans a campaign based on every voter arriving at a polling station on election day. Absolutely no candidate that is serious about being elected plans a campaign based on earning 100% of the vote.

Instead, the simplest summary of the idea is this: What do I have to do to earn the necessary numbers for election from the people that are going to show up?

Right now, history doesn’t suggest… history confirms to a degree bringing it to a level bordering up against certainty, that a minority of eligible voters are going to show up in 2018. (And, unless something changes, this will repeat in 2022, 2026, 2030, and so on.) Most people don’t care. Most people don’t want to invest the time.

Right now, regardless of the electoral college process that doesn’t apply to every political vote, history shows that many candidates will win with a vote total somewhere in the 42% to 48% range. Yes, good chunk will get a majority and clear 50%. A significant number will not.

Advisors and managers and strategists base their work on knowing these things (and, yes, much more). But the foundation remains…

This is a game.

And, amazingly, if we… the eligible and registered voters in the United States… want to change things, make a statement, and express that the way things are isn’t acceptable, there is a very easy way to do it.

All we need to do is get a majority of us to cast our ballot on election day this year.

I’m not kidding.

In mid-term elections, going back roughly 100 years, the voter turnout rate has never cleared the 50% mark. In presidential election years, same rough time frame, the high point still fell below 65%.

Want to change the government… and the way politicians view us? The answer is very simple. Vote.

50% this year would be historic.

67% in 2020 would be historic.

Think about that. Those numbers are ridiculously low. Half in one year… two-thirds in the other. But it’s that apathetic, one vote won’t make a difference, grab a friend that will vote completely the opposite way and go fishing instead mentalities that create the foundation of political campaigns.

If I’m a candidate, I don’t need a strategy that makes me the choice of a majority of the people. In essence, I only need a strategy that makes me a candidate for the majority of the 40% of voters that will vote. Big difference.

I have no clue what your personal and professional situations are these days. I don’t know what you believe, how you feel, or if you even care about specific issues. Some things that are important to you may be secondary to me. But you have a right to those opinions, and a right to assist in selecting representation that will support those opinions. Don’t throw that away.

Politics is a game. And it’s about time that we learned more about how that game is being played and participate.

Folks, it won’t take much to shake the ground. Not much at all.

But if only 40% or less of us show up in November… if less than two-thirds of us show up in 2020… the reality is that nothing will change.

Nothing changes when the same people are making the decisions. It only changes when more people raise their voices and take the time to cast a vote.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com