False dichotomy of equivalence

The title is not clickbait. It’s a mouthful. But then again, I don’t write on this blog worried about the traffic or making any money off of it. So I’m free to ignore all the wonderful advice that is out there for growing an audience on a blog. LOL.

Today is Primary Day. It’s the day that the residents of Pennsylvania who are registered as either a Democrat or Republican go and vote on who will represent their parties for the General Election in November.

I’m registered non-partisan and so I don’t get to go to the polls today. Especially since there isn’t a ballot question either.

Here’s what I’ve heard though, far too often – that there is a 50/50 split in our nation.

That’s only true if all you consider are people registered in the two major political parties. The percentages vary slightly, but in essence the nation is pretty split between Democrats and Republicans. You can see this play out in General Election results too.

But is this really the case? No.

The reality is far different. In reality, neither of the two political parties represent anywhere close to 50% of the population.

Here’s some things to consider:

333.3 million people live in the US. A 50/50 split would mean that would mean that 166.65 million people voted for a Democrat and that same number voted for a Republican. And that all those people nicely aligned with what these parties stand for.

But no election has ever produced those results – not even close. And no political party represents the beliefs of everyone who is voting for the candidates in these elections. Again, not even close.

The 2020 presidential election results showed Joe Biden receiving just over 81 million votes and Donald Trump receiving just over 74 million votes. That’s 155 million votes combined. There were almost 3 million votes for other candidates, so that equals roughly 158 million votes, still under half of the entire population.

That’s because you have to remove certain folks from the numbers – the people who are ineligible to vote being the largest percentage. These would be individuals who are under 18 years of age. According to the US Census Bureau stats from 2020, the national percentage of residents who were 18 years of age or older was 77.9% of the population. That means 22.1% were under the age of 18. If that percentage stayed the same to 2023, then that equals 73.6 million people.

Another population that is ineligible to register to vote are foreigners in the US – regardless of their legal status. An additional population that is ineligible to vote are convicts. I don’t have specific numbers, but it is safe to safe that both of these represent millions of people.

The Kaiser Foundation has interesting stats on percentages of population by states that are voters.

Once you remove people who are ineligible to vote, you end up with a number that are eligible. But how many people are eligible, but aren’t registered? They don’t count towards the results of the election. And add in how many are registered, but chose not to vote for any number of reasons. Again, this reduces the overall population of those who participated in any given election.

Presidential elections are also the elections that usually bring out the largest turn out.

In so-called off year elections (the odd number years) where more local elected officials are elected (like school boards, district and county judges, municipal elected officials, etc), the percentage of turn out is often between 20-30% of registered voters.

When compared to the overall population, that means a relatively small percentage of the population is determining who will be running the government here in the US.

And the reality that the two political parties don’t talk about is that these two parties have groups of people who vote for their candidates because the voters don’t like what’s being offered by their opponents, not necessarily because they like who they are voting for. Take this into consideration and what you end up with is a very small percentage of people who align with either of the two major parties and what they stand for. Everyone else is just putting up with them.

Which raises the question – why do we put up with the way things are? Probably because we think we are alone or in the minority and our voice won’t be heard. The reality is far different. These two political parties are in the minority.

When we hear the media or others say “half the country…” you can be sure that it’s not. It’s half of those who voted a certain way on Election Day. And even then, that half probably doesn’t align with the party they voted for 100%.

Things could be different. But as long as we settle for a false narrative, we can expect to continue to have a false dichotomy of equivalence.


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