Americans are tired of politics as usual. President Obama’s ratings are down. Ratings for Congress are down. Politics is not the flavor of the month in America.
There are shocks for Democrat and Republican politicians. Both parties have reason to worry about the latest reports that the falling number of registered voters in the most populous states.
Sometimes issues in a single state cause changes that are a shock, but people in other states don’t really notice until they hear it on the news – and sometimes, not even then. When a nationwide trend gets underway, almost everyone – other than the completely clueless – hears about the trend around the same time.
In this current nationwide trend, even the “ultra-blue” California Democrats have realized their spending and taxing ways need to be moderated.
With an electorate of 17.7 million registered voters, California now has 43.6 percent who identify as Democrats, down a full percentage point since 2010. Republicans may smile about that drop, but they have their own problems – and they are worse. Republican registration dropped more than 2 points to 28.7 percent, according to new figures in a new report released by the Secretary of State, Debra Bowen.
The report showed that since 1997, the Democratic Party’s share of the registered vote in California dropped 3.2 percentage points, and Republicans lost 7.5 points.
The number of citizens stating “No party preference” (NPP) increased to 20.9 percent in 2013. Another 6.8 percent of Californians identify with smaller parties including the American Independent Party, Americans Elect Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, or Peace and Freedom Party.
National registration of independents hit a record high of 42 percent in 2013, according to a recent Gallup poll, mostly at the higher expense of the Republicans over the Democratic Party.
In California, approximately 20 percent of independent voters cast their ballots for Republicans while a commanding 40 percent went for Democrats, according to Eric McGhee, a research fellow at the California Public Policy Institute.
Chairs of the Department of Government at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, John McGlennon, said, “You used to have elections where voters could ignore the primary, since there would be a choice of two or more different party representatives. Now the primary voters pick the top two, and there will be a number of cases where the highest-turnout elections will not offer voters a choice between or among parties.”
According to some analysts, this dramatic change in the way elections turn out has been a great encouragement for voters to break through party lines, and it may also be responsible for consensus-building.
California has made other recent changes to the way elections are run. District lines are now drawn by a citizen committee rather than by the legislature, where it was easier to create a gerrymander. Since 2012, term limits have been established. These changes have helped to magnify the trends mentioned above, and, according to Sonoma State’s Professor McCuan, “have helped open up a free-for-all across many areas of the state.”
Michael Shires, professor of public policy at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, says “The two established political parties is a growing national trend and, if California’s model seems to result in broader consensus and moderation, we may see elements of it spill over into other states.”
According to the Secretary of State’s report, almost 3 in 4 of California’s 24 million eligible voters are registered, an increase of about 751,000 since 2010.
Does this mean citizens are finally taking politics a bit more seriously? Let’s hope it makes a positive difference in the way that politicians conduct the peoples’ business.