(Stephen Allott) – On Saturday, February 4, the much heralded “First in the West” caucus rolled into the State ofNevada. Much planning and organization was completed by the state and local parties. Indeed, a special caucus location and time was arranged to accommodate those who were unable to attend the caucus during the day for religious reasons. Finally, the day arrived, and Republican voters trooped to the polls to cast their votes.
But, what a dismal showing it was.
Of the approximately 470,000 registered Republican voters in the State, a mere 33,000 or 7%, actually showed up to cast their ballots.
This year was hailed as the one in which Republican voters were given the edge against the Democrats on “voter enthusiasm.” This was the year when the roles were reversed from 2008, when the Republicans were despondent and the Democrats enthusiastic. What happened that there was such apparent voter apathy inNevada?
True, caucuses have never drawn voters to the polls in droves, but this year’s showing was exceedingly low by any reasonable standard.
Perhaps it was the effect of the highly charged, negative and personal tone of this campaign. Did the constant barrage of distasteful advertisements and appalling campaign fliers finally take its toll onNevadavoters? Did voters stay home in protest – or out of sheer disgust?
The “experts” constantly remind us that negative campaigning works, yet I wonder how many people who attended the caucuses actually cast their ballots based upon a negative flier they received or a negative comment made during a televised debate.
Who can forget how President Obama lured people to the polls with his positive “hope and change” and “yes, we can” messages in 2008 (despite his subsequent miserable failure in both regards)?
Eternal optimism propelled Ronald Reagan to victory in 1980 and a solid re-election in 1984. He must be turning in his grave at how his 11th commandment to not speak ill of a fellow Republican has not only fallen by the wayside, but been totally trampled upon. Yet our candidates, their surrogates, and their PAC’s seem intent on destroying their counterparts instead of presenting a positive vision, or at least focusing their attention on the real opposition. There should be plenty of grist for the mill to highlight the disastrous policies implemented during the last three years of the current administration.
Maybe the voters last Saturday were working. Perhaps they were playing the tables or planning their Super Bowl parties. Whatever the reason for their abstaining, the system needs healthy, active, and vigorous participation if our electoral system is to survive.
On Saturday evening, all of the candidates put their spin on the outcome. They have little to crow about.
If the last standing candidate in this primary contest is to defeat President Obama – and defeat him we must – our standard bearer will surely have his work cut out for him. Not only will he have to win over Independent voters and some disenchanted Democrats who the party needs to win the election, but he will also have to generate some enthusiasm for an apparent indifferent Republican electorate.
This will be no small feat if last Saturday’s voting is any yardstick.
(Mr. Allott is owner of SMA Software Services, Inc. and lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.)