The Low Turnout Excuse

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

The liberal intelligentsia is mad at Americans again. But where the railing is usually about, say, their penchant for guns or religion, this time it’s about their refusal to turn out to vote.

Blasted Americans.

The lowest turnout in more than seven decades so irked the University of Wisconsin’s paper, the Cardinal, that it rushed out a column calling for mandatory voting. The doltish voters don’t seem to grasp that low turnout is, as the New York Times put it in an editorial, “bad for Democrats.”

And “even worse for democracy,” it added.

Never mind that we sloths managed to end Democratic control of the Senate while bestirring, in most states, fewer than half of our eligible voters.

I’d have thought we deserved a medal for efficiency.

After all, just 36.3 percent of eligible voters turned out in this election. According to MSNBC, we haven’t seen that since FDR’s last stand in 1944. Yet the decision made by these few, these happy few, was streamed in headlines across every front page in the land.

The left seems to prefer the old Soviet system. This, according to a quick check, produced a turnout in the 1950 legislative election of 100 percent. The Democrats . . . pardon me, the Communists, won in a landslide.

Old Joe Stalin knew how to fire up “democracy” — and nobody ran any negative ads (of course, they’d have been cast into the Gulag Archipelago if they did).

Then again, by the logic of the left, the voters must have been happy as clams under the Soviet system. The Times has it that our voters stayed home because of “anger and frustration at the relentlessly negative tone of the campaigns.”

MSNBC attributes the low turnout to the fact that “Republicans made stymieing President Obama their top priority.” (Maybe the GOP found out that Mr. Obama is a Democrat?)

This dastardly trick left Democrats “too afraid of the backlash to put forward plans to revive the economy or to point out significant achievements of the last six years,” according to the Times.

The paper was too modest to list those achievements, but the big one was adding $7.8 trillion to the national debt in only six short years.

Think of it. All that borrowing and “neither party gave voters an affirmative reason to show up at the polls.”

It’s embarrassing for me to have to report what the Times said about voters in its own state. But it called our 28.8 percent turnout — by my reckoning, the 4th most efficient in the entire country — “shameful.”

Well, whose fault is that?

The Times, after all, had decided that Governor Cuomo had defaulted so badly on corruption that he didn’t deserve the Democratic nomination. Then, rather than give a nod to the hyper-honest Robert Astorino, the paper turned around at the 11th hour and endorsed Cuomo.

Of course, hysteria over turnout goes way back. I’m reminded of what might be the most poorly received editorial in history. That’s The Wall Street Journal’s squib thanking Jimmy Carter for making his 1980 concession speech before voting had ended in California.

This, the editors said, had saved thousands of people in Ronald Reagan’s home state the trouble of schlepping to the polls.

“Un-American” and “cynical” were the kindest words I remember reading in the following week’s mail.

But it was morning in America. Something like 52.8 percent of the voting-age population had decided the question and handed up a giant. What it goes to show is that voter turnout in and of itself is no great virtue. The highest turnout in American history — the election of 1876 — was the one that produced the bitterest result.

That’s the election in which Rutherford Hayes defeated Samuel Tilden, even though Hayes had lost the popular vote by three full percentage points.

Incidentally, the Times endorsed Hayes, the Republican. The paper predicted that he would be “carried to the White House by the force of popular confidence.”

What do you know if the voters didn’t spurn the Times’ endorsement and give 254,235 more votes to Tilden. Hayes won the vote in the Electoral College anyhow. He might have won the popular vote itself, if the confounded turnout hadn’t been so high.

This column first appeared in the New York Post.

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