Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Saturday, August 13, 2016

A FEVERED THOUGHT

I give up.  I cannot stop obsessing about the election.  I have tried plunging into the Critique of Pure Reason, I have tried binge watching Mozart in the Jungle, I have tried early morning walks, I have even tried watching Beach Volleyball and Dressage at the Olympics.  It just doesn’t work.  So I am going to give in and blog about my latest speculation about whether the Democrats can take back the Senate and the House.  By the way, I am now quite convinced that Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States, a thought even more depressing than Olympic Badminton.  [And yes, even so, I shall continue working here in North Carolina for Clinton.  I just did two hours of voter registration this morning.]

I have a thought that does not yet rise to the level of a theory.  Here it is, put as simply as I am able.  Let me start with some facts.  Roughly sixty percent of eligible voters actually go out and voter in an American presidential election, only forty percent in off-year Congressional elections.  These are rather startling numbers, for all that we have become accustomed to them.

Now, there is a good deal of evidence that reliably Republican voters are being turned off in large numbers by Trump.  This is indicated both directly by polling data and indirectly by the unusually large numbers of people polled who say they intend to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.  In response to the data, more and more Republican office holders and candidates are calling on the Republican National Committee to cut Trump loose and concentrate their spending and other efforts on down-ballot candidates in an effort to stem the bleeding.

The assumption behind this proposal is that it is possible to get significant numbers of reliable Republicans to vote for the Republican candidates for Senator and Representative even if they either vote for Johnson, vote for Clinton, or simply do not cast a ballot for any presidential candidate.

But I have begun to wonder whether that is realistic.  The enormous disparity between the proportion of eligible voters voting in presidential and off-year elections indicates that a great many Americans – perhaps as many as fifty-five million – are only motivated to turn out by the desire to vote for a candidate at the top of the ticket.  Once in the voting booth, they tend to vote a straight ticket, but in the absence of a presidential race, a third who would otherwise vote simply stay home.  By the way, it seems plausible that there are more Republicans turned off by Trump than there are Democrats turned off by Clinton.

Now, I tend to doubt that those anti-Trump Republicans will show up in large numbers and loyally vote for down-ballot Republicans.  Surely confronted by Trump at the top of the ticket and not really excited by Johnson, for all that they give his name when polled, large numbers of anti-Trump Republicans who cannot be bothered to vote in off-year elections will just stay home on November 8th.

If my hunch is correct, the Republicans may lose many more House and Senate seats than the polls suggest, especially in light of the fact that the Trump campaign has, even now, completely failed to stand up any kind of on-the-ground campaign whatsoever.

Now, let us see whether Track and Field has started yet.


6 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Are the Republicans turned off by Trump and who will vote Johnson or Clinton typical Republican voters?

Doesn't the fact that they are turned off by Trump (even though they're Republican or they generally identify as Republicans) indicate a slightly higher level of political awareness than the normal voter has and thus, the possibility that a higher percentage of them will take the time to vote in the congressional elections for Republicans even though they're not voting the straight ticket (which is easier)?

That is, the non-Trump voting Republicans would tend to be the most politically active and politically aware Republicans, the ones who choose both their presidential and congressional votes with care and after some thought.

David Auerbach said...

http://election.princeton.edu/2016/08/12/what-would-it-take-for-the-house-to-flip/#more-16862

Charles Pigden said...

Are you glad or sorry that they don't have compulsory voting in the US as they do in Australia?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

At this point I am sorry, because if we did, I think we would take the House and Senate and hold the presidency.

s. wallerstein said...

How does the compulsory voting system work in Australia?

In Chile until fairly recently we had compulsory voting, but first, voter registration was not compulsory, so young people stopped registering and second, people began to realize that the police and courts had better things to do than to track down registered voters who didn't vote, so fewer and fewer people voted.

Result: they changed the system so that everyone is automatically registered at age 18, but voting is voluntary. That, as you can imagine, increased the percentage of people who don't bother to vote. Those who vote tend to be wealthier and better educated which makes the political system even more rightwing.

Charles Pigden said...

I'm not sure of the details but I think registration is compulsory (and maybe in some sense automatic) and so is voting. It's been going for a long time now and has been quite successful.