Occam’s Razor – states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.
The political world is basically losing their collective mind over the recent loss by House Representative Eric Cantor – the Republican Representative from Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District and the number 2 man in the Republican Leadership in the US House – in his primary against a relatively unknown and underfunded Tea Party Candidate, Dave Brat. Everyone seems to have a theory (or a list of reasons) why Cantor lost ranging from Cantor’s arrogance, to the resurgence of the Tea Party. What surprises me about all this is that the most obvious reason is basically being ignored.
That wasn’t a far statement. There are a few pundits that did mention the obvious, but they failed to follow up on their statements. In fact, one pundit not only mentioned it, he based his entire article on it – and then concluded that it was so obvious, it couldn’t be the reasons.
The reason Eric Cantor lost is because only 13% of the registered voters in his district showed up to actually vote. It is as simple as that. 65,000 voters voted in the primary. In 2012, 381,000 people voted from that district in the election. The number of actual registered voters is even higher. It didn’t take a lot for even an unknown candidate like Brat to win. It is simple math.
Most of the national pundits are making their lists or claiming to have the answers why Cantor lost. Paul Krugman is claiming it is due to the death of “Movement Conservatism” – where a candidate runs on one platform and then moves to another platform after winning. I would almost buy into that argument if “Movement Conservatism” (or “Movement Liberalism” was the watchword of the day in today’s politics. Leigh Ann Caldwell of CNN gives her seven reasons why Cantor lost. In truth, I don’t necessarily disagree with any of her reason – except that they are symptoms of the problem with American Politics and can probably be said of almost every candidate running for re-election. Sally Kohn claims that Cantor lost because America is getting tired of the same old Republican Leadership. Again, I don’t buy it. There were REPUBLICANS that voted to oust Cantor in favor of a relatively unknown Tea Party candidate. I could go on listing reasons like Cantor’s compromises with the Democrats (that is a joke, but the punchline is that Brat used that platform as his running platform against Cantor), Cantor’s unwillingness to spend more time in Virginia, etc. It is all punditry at it’s finest and ignores the very large elephant in the room – the 13% voter turnout.
When you have 13% of the voting populous choosing your candidates for you, of course surprises like this happen. A little more than one voter in ten made this choice for Virginia’s Seventh District. All Brat had to do was convince one in ten people in his district that Cantor should be replaced. He obviously accomplished that task. Cantor is out and now the Republican hopes in that District are hung on a man who started out his new candidacy with the statement “I don’t have a well crafted response” to issue questions.
One pundit actually went down the road of voter turnout – Philip Bump of the Washington Post. He tries to make the claim that voter turnout couldn’t be the reasons because, in this primary election, 13% of the voters turned out instead of the smaller numbers in previous elections. I have to admit, when I read that only 13% of the voters turned out in this election, I thought it had to be a mistake or mistype. When I read Bump’s article, and found that in previous primary elections even less turned out, I am actually stunned. On average, less that 10% of that district’s voters turn out to vote. What the HELL?
The bottom line is this. Voting is a right guaranteed to the citizens of the US. Men (and women) have fought for that right and are continuing to fight for your right to vote. If you do not exercise that right, you are part of the problem. Eric Cantor lost his election because 83% of the voters in his district failed to get to the polls and exercise their right to choose their representative.
There is a short speech in one of my favorite movies of all time that addresses this –
Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine- the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, whereby those important events of the past, usually associated with someone’s death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent. Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you, then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.
If you want to know what is wrong in politics today – you have no further to look than your own mirror. We, the Voters, are failing this country. We are failing to demand better representation. We are failing to demand that only people have the right to determine our elections, not corporations. We are failing to hold our elected representatives to their word. We are failing to force our representatives to curb the excesses of the rich and bring back stability to our middle class. This is OUR failure and it is up to us to fix it. Eric Cantor lost because the people in his district failed to vote.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think Eric Cantor was a waste of space in Congress. He exemplifies many of the things that myself (and most of the voting populous) despise in our current politicians. All that said, the man that won the primary is far worse and it is the lazy, apathetic and disenfranchised voters of that district that have inflicted this moron on us all.