Forget the polarization of the parties. Never mind the growing gap between the superrich and the rest of us. Race relations? Child’s play. The generation gap? A matter of inches. Rural/urban, left coast/right coast, Betty or Wilma, Savannah or Anne, Tom or Katie..pah!
No, my friends, the most polarizing divide – the real one-percenters in America today who stand against the rest of us – are the roughly 3 million voters who will actually decide the November presidential election. Chances are you aren’t one of them.
Let’s meet them.
Test #1 – Where’s home? If you live in one of the 13 states listed below, game on; you get to play another round. If you live in one of the other states….crickets…crickets…crickets…sit down. Oh sure, go ahead and vote if you want – there might be some other candidates or issues on the ballot, but as far as the presidential race goes, just sit still, watch closely and don’t touch any of the buttons.
The swingingest swing state appears to be Florida as it is rated a toss-up by every news organization I checked in with – 270toWin, FiveThirtyEight, CNN, HuffPo, MSNBC, the New York Times, Real Clear Politics, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal – and Arizona is the least as only the Journal classifies it as a swinger. Frankly, I have trouble seeing Michigan, Missouri, Arizona or Pennsylvania as swing states; the first three seem pretty solid for Romney and Pennsylvania looks pretty good for Obama.
So…if you want to really make a difference in this presidential election, haul ass to the swing state of your choice, establish residency and register to vote there. Nate Silver over a FiveThirtyEight (which is – for the third or fourth election in a row – one of the best web sites for polling analysis and prognostication) has even helpfully calculated which states offer the most bang for the buck per vote (New Hampshire and Nevada lead the list).
Which brings us to…
Test #2 – Are you an eligible voter?
If you’re one of the approximately 77,000,000 eligible voters living in those 13 states, keep standing, you’re still in the game. Know, though, that the rest of us are expecting you to stay on top of this and to do the right thing not just for yourselves but for all of us. We’ll pay you back next time.
Unless, of course, you fail the next screen…
Test #3 – Will you actually vote?
The reality is that not everyone votes in our democracy. In the last comparable election – 2004 – only 55.7 percent of those eligible to vote actually voted. Among the swing states, Wisconsin’s civic minded residents led the way with 71.9 percent of eligible voters making it to the polls while just 47.6 of eligible Arizonans punched their tickets. Using these historical percentages as predictors, I’m guess only about 46,214,000 eligible swing state voters are going to make it to the voting booth come election day.
Which leads me to the last important question…
Test #4 – Are you persuadable?
Even in the swing states, the reality is that the vast majority of voters are more or less already decided on how they’re voting come November. Only a small number – probably less than 10 percent of eligible voters – are undecided or are still truly open to an argument from one side or the other. We can quibble over what percentage of the voting population this group represents, but I picked 7 percent because that’s the percent of respondents who keep telling pollsters they’re undecided.
The population of the U.S. right now is about 314,000,000. The number of people who will decide this next presidential election – the people who passed all four tests above – is about 3.25 million or about 1 percent of the general population. It is this group who will be the target of the roughly $2 billion dollars the candidates, parties and their fellow travelers have starting slinging around, a spending level that works out to…wait for it…$618 dollars per voter.
The rich just keep on getting richer.