If Moderate Voters Don't Vote, Extremism Will Triumph
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 4, 2014
Executive Summary: The US mid-term elections are being held today. Some congressmen and
governors are running for re-election. President Obama has a dismal
record. Most pundits consider the situation unfavorable for the
Democrats. They are likely to lose control of the senate. Obama faces a
difficult future. An Economist editorial entitled "The Silent Centre”
argued that if moderate voters do not vote, extremists will run amok.
This warning is apropos, and is equally applicable to the year end
elections on Taiwan.
Full Text Below:
The US mid-term elections are being held today. Some congressmen and governors are running for re-election. President Obama has a dismal record. Most pundits consider the situation unfavorable for the Democrats. They are likely to lose control of the senate. Obama faces a difficult future. An Economist editorial entitled "The Silent Centre” argued that if moderate voters do not vote, extremists will run amok. This warning is apropos, and is equally applicable to the year end elections on Taiwan.
Presidennt Barack Obama and President Ma Ying-jeou are in the same pickle. Their administrations were ineffective. Their approval ratings are in the toilet. They are a drag on their party's election prospects. This is a common problem in democratic politics. Current heads of state often win re-election by virtue of the power of the incumbency. But shortly after re-election, their calcified thinking alienates the public. Their approval ratings take an immediate downturn. This phenomenon clearly dogged Obama's predecessor George W. Bush, as well as Ma's predecessor Chen Shui-bian. The midterm elections in the US are often an opportunity to launch a counter-attack. Ma Ying-jeou has been a lame duck for some time.
There is another serious problem with democracy. It is highly susceptible to reductionism and dilution. Citizenship is reduced to merely casting a ballot. Political activism is diluted to the point where it applies only to political parties or politicians. In the United States for example, more and more money is spent on campaigns. The congressional elections burned through a record four billion US dollars. Campaign ads and technical operations have grown. Voter turnout on the other hand, has shrunk. This reflects the erosion of democracy. Voter turnout for the 2010 mid-term elections in the US was only 45%. Fewer than than half the voters went to the polls. That is deeply worrisome.
Two factors were responsible for the low voter turnout in the midterm elections. One. Low levels of minority participation. Most voters during midterm elections are white. African-American, Latino, and Asian voters have less sharply defined political identities. They are less interested in local elections. Many of them vote only during presidential elections. Latinos constitute an increasingly large percentage of the US population. The overall turnout for Latinos during the last midterm election was only 31%. The Democratic Party is attempting to turn the tide by appealing to minority voters.
Two. Centrist voters have been abandoned. The Pew Research Center is an independent polling organization. According to the center, 73% of those who consider themselves "long time conservatives" intend to vote during this election. By contrast, onlly 58% of those who consider themselves "long time liberals" intend to vote. Among those who consider themselves "centrist," only 25% intend to vote. As a result, the Democratic and Republican campaign strategies are addressing both extremes of the political spectrum, actively seeking their party's diehard supporters. The centrist voter on the other hand, is being ignored. He has been abandoned.
Are centrist voters too wishy-washy? Are they too difficult to win over? Are they too weak-willed? Were they abandoned because their loyalty to political parties was too weak? Were they too easily disappointed? Were they too quick to lose faith and become indifferent? This is an intriguing question. Admittedly, many historic elections hinged on the swing vote. They determined who won and who lost. They invested the election with meaning. But in most elections, the absence of the centrist voter caused democracy to retreat rather than advance.
The Pew Research Center survey also found that voters more disgusted with the other party, have a stronger incentive to vote. Republican supporters are far more disgusted with the Democratic Party than Democratic supporters are with the Republican Party. The desire of GOP voters for an upset, far exceeds the support of Democratic voters for their party.
This situation resembles blue vs. green partisan politics on Taiwan. The blue and green camps have different core supporters in different voting districts. But the true diehards are deep green voters. They can even sway the DPP leadership. As for blue camp supporters, a large proportion of them consider themselves moderates or swing voters. But they are highly susceptible to electioneering. They may abstain from voting because they consider both candidates to be rotten apples. This inevitably leads to the Economist's concern, that extremists may run amok. This is not unheard of in Taiwan's democracy. .
Taiwan's democracy took a different path than America. But the two most recent elections exhibit many similarities. Compare this to the situation in Europe. Many European countries have experienced political and economic setbacks. As a result, both left and right wing extremists are on the rise. The political center has caved in. One problem is that centrist voters are weak-willed. Modern democracy encourages mediocrity. Realpolitik is ugly and cruel. And lastly, there is the problem all citizens must face. If centrist voters do not vote, extremist forces may run amok. This may be a simple observation. But its shows that preserving our hard-won democracy may not be easy.
2014.11.04 02:15 am
其二，中間選民被放棄。根據美國獨立民調機構皮尤研究中心（Pew Research Center）的調查，這次選舉，有七十三％自認「一貫保守」的美國人將會投票，五十八％自認「一貫自由」的公民會去投票；而那些自認持「中間看法」的選民，則僅有廿五％會去投票。正因為如此，民主、共和兩黨的選戰策略都在經營光譜的兩端，積極爭取本黨的死忠支持者，中間選民則不受眷顧，成為失落的一群。