The U.S. presidential primary season has certainly been unusual. For some of us, it’s been a nice change. I don’t mean that the slate of candidates is wonderful or it has been a pleasant experience to watch the news. I definitely do not mean that. I mean that there are more people interested in discussing politics this year, and some of us like to discuss politics.
I’ve noticed a change recently though. There seem to be fewer people willing to talk to me, and my political posts are getting fewer “Likes” than they used to. I think people are getting turned off and I’m not sure what that means for the election in November.
The Uh-Oh moment for me came in the form of my brother-in-law who has been visiting the past few days. They’re actually visiting my father-in-law following his accident, but we still get a few hours together each day. In the past, we would spend a fair amount of time talking about political and economic issues, but not so much on this visit. If fact, he and his wife have a saying when some unpleasant political story comes on the television (they consider almost all political stories to be unpleasant these days). They say in comically accented voices, “Politicians! They are dead to me!” And then they change the channel or press the mute button.
I get together with a small group for breakfast once a week and there, too, the political discussions have decreased in number and duration. I realize this is a small sample size, but I think people are getting tired of talking about the presidential campaign.
It’s possible that people are just getting busier. Here in West Michigan, we haven’t had snow in nearly a week and soon the grass will need to be mowed. (Okay, those of you in more southern states can stop laughing now.) Perhaps we’re willing to put the campaign aside for a little while and start our spring cleaning. In fact, I have ten cubic yards of mulch coming tomorrow and really should get back outside to prepare.
I wanted to check something though. I looked at the television ratings for the presidential debates and there is a significant drop off. Through February 12, the average viewership for the republican debates was 16.2 million, and that for the democratic debates was 9.2 million. The last republican debate was on March 10 and had 11.9 million viewers. The last democratic debate was April 14 and had 5.6 million viewers.
Those are substantial drops in viewership – down 27% for the republicans and 39% for the democrats.
I think Americans are getting sick of the presidential campaign and disgusted with the overwhelming and sensationalized new coverage. Collectively, we need a break.
The funny thing about this – it’s actually an exciting time in presidential politics. New York, Pennsylvania and especially California rarely have an impact on picking the nopines. In most presidential election years, the candidates have clinched enough delegates to ensure the nomination before mid-April, let alone early June. We should be paying attention.
The main turnoff may be talk of contested conventions. The discussions include strategies about how the republicans can rewrite the rules shortly before the convention begins which could ensure Donald Trump’s defeat, and possibly bring in a nominee who hasn’t even entered the race. The democrats have the super delegate system which was specifically designed to dilute the voters’ influence in choosing a nominee following disastrous selections such as George McGovern in 1972 (lost 520-17 to Richard Nixon).
So in a year when the outsiders are the most popular candidates because they are not beholden to the politically powerful, the contested convention talk tells the voters that the politically powerful can still design systems to get their own way.
It is a way of thumbing their noses at the American voter. It’s not a smart idea unless, of course, your goal is to reduce voter participation outside of traditional voter groups.
In that case, this may be exactly what they want. Low voter turnout caused by disgust in the system leaves a higher percentage of political establishment voters and gives the politically powerful what they want. I feel manipulated. Again.