Your mailbox may be filling up with political brochures in these final days before next week’s partisan political primaries, but make no mistake. This year’s elections will bear little resemblance to the frenzy that was Election 2016 when the entire world watched Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump duke it out. This year marks a different political phenomenon.
2018, is what is called a “blue moon” – as in, “once in a” – election year, the first in North Carolina since Republicans, fueled by what was then called the Tea Party, swept Congress and state legislatures in 2010. A blue moon election is defined by which offices are not on the ballot – no presidential races, no U.S. Senate races, no guber natorial races – meaning that the highest offices on 2018 ballots in North Carolina are Congressional and legislative seats. Traditionally, voters of all stripes to say “ho-hum” in blue moon years, parking ourselves on our sofas in record numbers.
And that is a problem because it means that elected officials who make critical decisions for all of us may be chosen by the relatively few voters who bestir ourselves to get to the polls. What is more, voters who do make the effort are more likely to be the zealots from both the right and the left, meaning that candidates who get elected are also more likely to come from the far right or the far left than from the moderate middle.
This begs the obvious question of why voters should care at all in this age of jaded views of government and the pervasive sense that it does not really matter who is elected since Washington and, to a lesser degree, Raleigh, are shut down by partisan gridlock. The reason voters should care is the same it has always been. If we choose not to participate in this or any other election cycle, we cede our decision-making, and in many ways our futures, to other people whose values and political positions we may or may not share. Think taxes, public education, health care access, the environment and our general quality of life in North Carolina.
So what should we expect in this election year?
Talking heads have much to say on this topic, and if you want a taste of their views, all you have to do is tune your television to various news channels. Generally speaking, most talking heads give a slight edge to Democratic candidates, mainly because history gives an edge to the party out of power in midterm elections. Couple that fact with the president’s unpopularity and Democratic wins in several recent special elections around the nation, and Democratic strategists are feeling more optimistic.
But it is a long road from hope to political victories, much less changing the balance of power in Congress and state legislatures given the ironclad lockdown of gerrymandered districts since 2010. Republicans stacked Congressional and legislative seats so thoroughly in their favor following the 2010 elections that some observers believe a Democratic power wave is simply impossible in this decade and maybe beyond.
Whatever one’s political persuasions – left, right or from the great moderate middle, none of this means anything unless voters of all stripes get off our duffs and vote. Some nations fine voters for failing to exercise their rights at the ballot box, but America’s heritage of personal freedom has not taken us down that path, nor should it. With the upcoming partisan primaries and the fall general election looming, it is fair to say that if we do not participate in choosing our leaders for the next two years during this blue moon cycle, we will surely get what we deserve.