Voting

Voting (Photo credit: League of Women Voters of California)

George Friedman, writing for Stratfor’s Geopolitical Weekly, puts the humbug into next Tuesday’s doings:

Many say that the country has never been as deeply divided. In discussing the debates last week, I noted how this year’s campaign is far from the most bitter and vitriolic. It might therefore be useful also to consider that while the electorate at the moment appears evenly and deeply divided, unlike what many say, that does not reveal deep divisions in our society…

Surprisingly, most elections over the last two hundred years have been close. Only four presidents over that span won with 60 percent of the vote or more: Johnson, Harding, and Nixon. Only nine of them won by taking between 55 and 60 percent: Andrew Jackson, Lincoln, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Hoover, , and Reagan.

Even more surprising: eighteen elections ended with the winner receiving less than 50 percent of the vote. Here’s Friedman:

From 1824-2008, 13 elections ended in someone obtaining more than 55 percent but  never more than just over 61 percent the vote. Eighteen elections ended with the  president receiving less than 50 percent of the vote. The remaining 16 elections  ended with the winner receiving between 50-55 percent of the vote, in many cases  barely above the 50 percent mark — meaning almost half the country voted for  someone else.

The United States not only always has had deeply divided  elections, but in many cases, minority presidents. Interestingly, of the four  presidents who won more than 60 percent of the vote, three are not remembered  favorably: Harding, Johnson and Nixon.

Deep divisions are normal:

For almost 200 years the electoral process has consistently produced a division  in the country never greater than 60-40 and heavily tending toward a much  narrower margin.

Even in the most one-sided elections, nearly 40 percent of voters voted against  the winner. The most popular presidents still had 40 percent of votes cast  against them. All other elections took place with more than 40 percent  opposition.

The consistency here is striking. Even in the most extreme cases of  national crisis and a weak opponent, it was impossible to rise above just over  60 percent. The built-in opposition of 40 percent, regardless of circumstances  or party, has therefore persisted for almost two centuries. But except in the  case of the 1860 election, the deep division did not lead to a threat to the  regime. On the contrary, the regime has flourished — again 1860 excepted — in  spite of these persistent divisions.

Friedman is sanguine:

The say the election will be very close. If that is true, someone will be selected late at night after Ohio makes up its mind. The passionate on the losing side will charge and election stealing. The rest of the country will get up the next day and go back to work just as they did four years ago, and the republic will go on.

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