There is nothing that makes my heart drop down to my knees more quickly than a headline that reads “Trump Gets Some Good Election News.” But that was a Politico headline a week or so ago, and it was and is very troubling.
Late last month, the Democratic data firm TargetSmart found that while new voter registrations had plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic, those who were registering in competitive states tended to be whiter, older and less Democratic than before.
When he saw the numbers, Ben Wessel, executive director of NextGen America, said he “got nervous,” and other Democratic-leaning groups felt the same.
The report seemed to confirm what state elections officials and voter registration groups had been seeing in the field for weeks: Neither Democrats nor Republicans had been registering many voters during the pandemic. But Democrats were suffering disproportionately from the slowdown.
Unlike countries like Australia, America doesn’t have mandatory voting. If U.S. voters want to ignore the political process, if we want to leave the outcome up to those most passionate about it, if we just don’t care and want to stay home, we can. One of the reasons polls can so often be misleading is that pollsters have to make educated guesses about who will actually show up on election day.
Unlike a lot of countries, America doesn’t have a national agency that administers federal elections, either. Election day isn’t a national holiday–it isn’t even on a weekend–and very few states have made it easier, rather than harder, to register and vote. Add to that the GOP’s determination to use every suppression method it can muster–including some recent “enthusiastic” purges of the voter registration rolls– and the fact that a substantial majority of Americans want Donald Trump and the GOP defeated becomes irrelevant.
As one political observer puts it, “The electoral dynamics have already hardened. Donald Trump will lose if everyone who wants to vote can. His remaining hope is to choose his own electorate.”
In our system, what matters isn’t what a majority of Americans think or want. What matters is who shows up.
November has always been about turnout. Democrats need to turn out a blue wave–a blue tsunami–if voters are going to decisively defeat Trumpism. Whatever happens in the wake of such a defeat–further erosion and ultimate disappearance of the cult that was once the GOP, or a thorough housecleaning by the sane remnant–is less important than the decisiveness with which we defeat the corrupt and traitorous cabal that currently controls the White House and the Senate.
That tsunami cannot happen if Democratic registrations lag.
We know that Trump’s cult will show up at the polls. If rational Americans don’t register and vote in numbers sufficient to overwhelm them, we can kiss America goodby.
As Politico concluded:
The months-long lull in registration, at a minimum, has added an additional measure of uncertainty to the fall campaign, muddying the likely composition of the electorate. In some areas of the country, a swing of even several hundred voters could tilt the registration balance on Election Day.
Ask everyone you know whether they are registered. If they aren’t–or don’t know–get them registered. In Indiana, you–and they–can check whether they are registered by going here.
We can’t afford to let the polls lull us into false complacency. Again.