The Rise of the Political Refusenik: How Non-Voters Got So Influential This Election

  1. Home
  2. Politics
By Heywood Gould | 1:06 pm, November 8, 2016

On the final day of the American presidential campaign the two most despised candidates in history are gasping like exhausted mud wrestlers before one last grapple in the muck.

But the spectators have left the arena. Polls show that those are intending to vote have already made up their minds and are not influenced by the daily revelations of corruption and chicanery.

According to a NY Times-CBS poll they are “disgusted with the state of American politics.” Eight out of ten voters surveyed said “the campaign has left them repulsed rather than excited.”

Many don’t plan to vote at all. In the 21st century around 45% of voters have chosen not to exercise their democratic right at US Presidential elections. 70% of those are under 50.

But even in the event hatred of Trump and Clinton drives more voters to the polls this time around, this election has been defined by such disillusionment that history might well remember it as marking the point when many millennials lost faith in politics.

Everywhere you look there is despondency; #Never Trump Republicans like Ohio Governor John Kasich who says he’ll write in John McCain or Louise Mensch whose views will be familiar to readers of this site; evangelicals Christopher Pieper and Matt Henderson who decry “the clear and present danger of a Trump presidency,” and declare “you can’t be a Christian and vote for Trump.”

Then there are Bernie’s millennials like Nevada student Alicia Giles who recently said: “I don’t like this election. I don’t like either of the candidates. It’s super crazy. I don’t want to be part of it.”

Or Washington state elector Robert Satiacum who says Hillary’s use of a private email was “a heinous act of stupidity,” and will risk a thousand dollar civil fine rather than vote for her.“Maybe I’ll vote for Mickey Mouse,” he said. “Maybe Bozo the Clown.”

Voters everywhere faced with chaos see it their goal to shatter the status quo. David Cameron talked himself hoarse trying to persuade Britons that life would be over if they left the EU. But the writing was on the wall when a news clip from a small city showed a man with a Caribbean accent pointing to a Rumanian snack bar on the High Street and saying: “This just isn’t British…”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban thought he had a winner in an anti-immigrant, anti EU referendum, but lost when most of the electorate didn’t show up to vote. Colombians turned down a peace treaty with the narco-guerrilla FARC, which had terrorized the country for thirty years, shocking their leadership and the Obama Administration which had strongly supported the deal.

The EU can’t discipline its members. Italy threatens to “veto” the budget if Eastern European nations refuse to take in more immigrants. Greece defies sanctions on an Iranian bank.

Even the police states are having problems with their increasingly restive populations. China’s is trying a mix of consumerism and violent repression. Putin has fallen back on a tactic that has worked since Ivan the Terrible. Provoke a crisis, then call upon the populace to defend “Mother Russia.”

As Election Day looms apprehension is growing in western capitals. Some are predicting a precipitous plunge for the dollar if Trump is elected. The markets are quietly rooting for Hillary. “Politics won’t be a problem if she’s elected,” one trader said. Prime Minister Merkel faint-praised Hillary. “Whenever I had the chance to work together with Hillary Clinton, it was a great pleasure.”

A possible Trump victory has thrown a chill over the COP 22 climate change conference in Marrakesh. Trump has labeled global warming a Chinese conspiracy to “make US manufacturing non-competitive,”and has vowed to “tear up” the agreement if elected.

This has alarmed the Chinese, who usually stay out of American politics. ”I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends,” chief climate negotiator Xie said. Which is exactly the opposite of what Trump has done.

And he is two points away from the Presidency. With so many “repelled” and “disgusted” voters no one has tried to predict how big a turnout there will be.

But it looks like the non-voters will decide the outcome. To paraphrase Yeats, Hillary’s voters “lack all conviction” while Trump’s are full of “passionate intensity.” Will African Americans and millennials abandon Hillary? Will Republicans reject Trump?

On Wednesday we should be paying close attention to who stayed home on Tuesday.