Charles E. Richardson

RICHARDSON: Sleeping electorate may wise up

It has been an interesting couple of weeks since the midterm elections. I’ve enjoyed the Republican revelry and the Democrats’ disappointment. Republicans, wrongly assuming I’m a Democrat, have taken their shots. Democrats, assuming the same, want to commiserate.

Republicans will never be convinced that I’m not a Democrat because they automatically think the hue of my skin determines my party loyalty. Thing is, Democrats think the same.

You don’t have to believe me, but just for your information, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool independent. I don’t like Republicans, and I don’t like Democrats, though I will admit I do like Democratic rhetoric. Their talk is good when addressing the African-American community, but their actions? I can’t really tell them from Republicans.

At least Republicans are honest. They don’t give a whit about the African-American community, and they don’t try to pander to it. Will that change by 2016? I doubt it. Republicans will fall all over themselves trying to attract the “New Negroes” -- Hispanics. I could be wrong, but let’s see how many black delegates are spotted at the Republican National Convention next time around in Cleveland.

The one thing I do care about in elections is also a constant disappointment: voter turnout, or the lack of. What are people thinking? Are they so disappointed in government that they prefer to sit on their hands and stay home? All this talk about a midterm drop in turnout is real. According to the United States Election Project, just 36.3 percent of the voting eligible population cast ballots on Nov. 4. Voters have been shunning midterm elections for some reason since 1964. This midterm was the lowest since 1942.

Georgia can be proud to say that only 49.7 percent of its registered voters decided to sit this one out. But let’s back up and define a few terms. “Voting eligible population” is the number of people 18 years of age and older who can vote if registered. “Registered voters” are those who have taken the time to register. That number in Georgia is roughly 5.2 million. But while the turnout of registered voters was 50.3 percent, it was only 26 percent of the voting eligible population.

Yes, it’s even worse than it looks. A significant number of people 18 years of age and above have totally checked out. Government and those who would represent their interests are of no use to them.

Don’t get me wrong, I know why some people check out. They see the hypocrisy of it all. We’ve just been bombarded with the most expensive ad campaign in midterm history, and it failed, on a nationwide basis, to move 61.8 of the voting eligible population to register and vote.

All the ads confirm for people who sit out is that none of the candidates is worthy of consideration. That leaves it to party loyalists who would vote for a yellow dog rather than vote Democrat or Republican. That means, in Georgia, my vote either doubled in power because only half of the registered voters went to the polls, or it quadrupled, according to the voting eligible population. That does not make me happy.

Most Republicans voted straight ticket. I’m not mad at them. Look at the totals; Democrats did the same. Is there any hope that our political process will change? Not much. It’s a money game, and God bless the child who’s got his own, because with the mega-donors and the mega-PACs, no matter how the masses vote, we are not the ones our elected officials are beholden to.

There are those who want to make sure they stay on top and are willing to pay millions of dollars for the privilege of holding the reins of government. What I worry about is that one day, as the French did in 1787, people are going to get tired of eating cake and all hell will break loose. Political agendas can only cast a negative light on the have nots (where are their bootstraps?) for so long.

If we allow the economic gap to continue to widen between the haves and have nots, mark my words: Islamic State and all the other terrorist groups are not nearly the same threat to our republic.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at Tweet @crichard1020.