Our elections are tailored today for the zealous voter and the fringe campaign.
Consider: Of citizens over age 18 (and eligible to vote), fewer than half of them register to vote. Of those, fewer than 25 percent, on average, bother to vote in primary elections which, in Kansas, are the dominant elections, contests limited to Republicans; the far-right faces the near-right to the exclusion of others.
Even in general elections including a Democratic sacrificial lamb, voter turnout in November rarely reaches 50 percent. Thus, a fourth or fewer of eligible voters wind up at the polls. Those who do vote are mostly single-issue zealots who decide the value of a candidate by his or her view on one issue, or at most, two: abortion, or gun control, or immigration, or crimes of the federal establishment (the people who bring us Social Security, Medicare, interstate highways, affordable health care, farm subsidies and countless other evils of socialism).
A minority, then, elect their favorite from the fringe, producing a legislature from the fringe – the body that draws the boundaries of districts that send representatives to the House and Senate in the first place, boundaries designed to favor the incumbent. Reapportionment has become the catchword for incumbent protection.
That’s how we arrive at disaster, a legislature that insists, for example, on hidden guns for all, or the right to hate. Religious “freedom” by statute is nothing more than a package at cross purpose, one that proclaims liberty while enforcing an iron doctrine of exclusionary holiness. Or allowing us freedom to wonder which loud-mouth in a crowd might be packing heat. Some religion. Some freedom.
– JOHN MARSHALL