Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The LuLac Edition #3130, January 27th, 2016


Our “Write On Wednesday” logo.

When I was growing up in a Democratic family, I always felt that splitting a ticket might have been frowned on. But my parent’s mantra was “Vote For the Person” although my dad only strayed once at my urging in 1974 as far as I know to vote for the GOP's Dick Schweiker in his Senate run against Democrat Pete Flaherty.  Even when everyone seemed to be for Bill Scranton in the 1962 Governor’s race my father steadfastly wore a Dillworth button throughout the entire fall campaign. 
While I clung to the principles of the Democrats, I did vote for some moderate members of the GOP because they were reasonable. That stopped after 2006 when the national GOP got very strident. Even on a Statewide level, I was hard pressed to even consider a Republican because of the fierce partisanship of the GOP. I’m not alone, former Senator and Presidential nominee Bob Dole referred to the GOP Tea Party members as “those 40 knuckleheads of Congress”. 
The only member of the GOP I will consider this year is Joe Peters of Scranton for Attorney General. My ticket splitting or lack thereof is the subject of a great article written by Dr. G. Terry Madonna and Dr. Michael Young. The article takes a look at ticket splitting and how it has changed the way people vote but more importantly how candidates campaign.


In electoral politics, the things that most matter are too frequently obscured by the things that most entertain. This isn’t new or novel in American political campaigns where the raw, sensational and gaudy often eclipse the sober, serious and consequential for the attention of the electorate.
Thus in 2016, media attention and voter focus has alternated between the circus like nomination battle being waged by national Republicans and the soap opera drama sponsored by national Democrats.
What will the Donald say next? Can the son of a Cuban father born in Canada grow up to be president some day? Is Hillary really to blame for Bill’s behavior? Should Bernie answer any more questions about Bill’s behavior?
The future, if not the survival, of the nation rests on these and other weighty questions of similar merit.
Or not!
More realistically, on these and similar questions might rest the fate of TV ratings – and not much more.
That trivia and trash dominate our national presidential election dialogue is more a symptom of a problem than the underlying problem itself. Substance is absent from our politics because our politics no longer confronts substance – indeed no longer can confront substance.
Instead, we’ve become a nation of ideologically driven, politically polarized partisans who increasingly eschew the bargaining and compromise that have historically lubricated politics. Not only are moderates gone from American politics; moderation is gone as well.
Nothing illustrates this better or explains this more fully than the enormous decrease in ticket splitting.
Ticket splitting in presidential elections, a norm in American elections since World War II, is the act of voting for the presidential nominee of one political party while also voting for one or more congressional nominees of a different party.
According to the American National Election Study, ticket splitting in presidential elections dropped to a record low in the 2012 presidential election. In virtually every election cycle, fewer and fewer voters split their ticket. A Pew Foundation study in 2014 estimated that at least eight of 10 voters are now voting a straight ticket.
Historically this represents a revolution in voting behavior. As recently as the presidential election of 1972, more than four of every ten congressional districts (44 percent) could be characterized as ticket splitters - voting for one party’s candidate for president and one or more candidates of the other party for the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives.
That number has now dropped to about 1-in-20 House districts that show vote split results (5 percent). That decline represents almost a century low for ticket splitting. One has to go back to 1920 and the election of Warren Harding to discover a lower percentage of ticket splitting (3.2 percent).
Moreover, the swing away from ticket splitting marks a consistent downward trend line covering the past 44 years, encompassing eleven presidential elections – the sole exception being the 2000 election. For every eight voters who split their ticket in 1972, just one voter did so in 2012. In the same period, the number of congressional districts recording split results between the top of the ticket and so-called down ticket races declined precipitously – from 190 districts in 1984 to just 25 districts in 2012.
The raw numbers make explicit how enormous the decline in ticket splitting has been. There are 435 members in the House of Representatives. Only 26 of them represent districts won by the presidential candidate of the other party. So, only nine Democrats won in districts also won by Republican Mitt Romney, while only 17 Republicans won in districts also won by Democrat Barack Obama.
No crystal ball is necessary to foresee where the trends in ticket splitting are taking us. If the decline documented above continues into 2016 we may see a virtual demise of ticket splitting – even among independent voters. This is pregnant with implications for American politics.
In the upcoming 2016 presidential election, even narrow victories of a few points in many states will mean that some if not all of statewide candidates including U.S. Senate races will be determined by the top of the ticket. Even close races at the top of the ticket may sweep in many down-ticket candidates.
Democrats defending only 10 of the 34 Senate seats up for grabs in 2016 need only win five seats if they fail to capture the presidency. Consequently, there is going to be intense pressure brought upon presidential campaigns in both parties to remain competitive in as many states as possible. Already high profile Senate races in key states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Wisconsin and Florida are being scrutinized for the effect presidential nominees will have on competitive contests.
But the decline of ticket splitting casts a long shadow that spills far beyond the 2016 election – auguring not well for the health of our democracy. Straight ticket voting produces elections that only increase the virulent polarization infecting our politics. Worse perhaps, it undercuts ever further the compromise and accommodation so central to our intricate governmental system of checks and balances - inevitably unleashing more of the divisive and dysfunctional governance that increasingly alienates American voters from their government.
Dr. Madonna is Professor of Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, and Dr. Young is a speaker, pollster, author, and was Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Penn State University.


At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ticket splitting is the result of both parties drifting away from the voters who, at one time, supported them and were rewarded for that support. Now BOTH parties are responding to the loud fringe elements in such a way as to ignore and even disrespect those long time supporters.
Weary of the fleas wagging the dog we are relishing the chaos and breakdown of the "rulers" of each party.
You continue to focus your blogs ire on the conservative Tea Party types (we all know why) but ignoring the very same disease that plagues the left's image in the form of Rainbow Coalition, PETA, Greenies, BLM, etc. you miss the big picture.
This season is winding up to be the most positively chaotic and disruptive in modern history.
There is a distinct possibility that BOTH parties will be taken over by candidates who formerly would have been leading 3rd party candidates! Trump will succeed in revamping the Republicans using moderate Rs, disillusioned/disenfranchised Ds, and Independents. Bernie Sanders will take the helm of the Democrats based on Hillary's legal problems but it will be tenuous and shaky.


Post a Comment

<< Home