A recent Gallup poll of registered voters shows that voter enthusiasm is at a 20-year low-point based upon responses to a question that has been asked and tracked since the Contract with America election in 1994.
The question is simply, “Compared to previous elections, are you more enthusiastic about voting than usual, or less enthusiastic?”
The acceleration of the number of respondents who are less enthusiastic to vote is a direct reversal of attitudes from just four years ago when the Republicans took back control of the House in the Tea Party election.
Now, both sides face an enthusiasm gap with Democrats trying to find the prescription to cure Obamacare depression and Republican leadership successfully using every media and legislative opportunity to beat their base into submission.
While analysts will make the point that this is the inevitable result of a six-year presidential cycle for the incumbent party, the poll belies the current D.C. wisdom that Republicans will sweep to victory in November.
They have seen the same people who enthusiastically embraced limited government in rallies just four years ago vote for the same big government programs that they vowed to eliminate.
They have grown wise to the every-two-years platitudes of support for cutting the size and scope of government, and have matched the rhetoric to the disappointing actual results.
Most importantly, for the first time in 20 years, a majority of registered voters (only about 70 percent of the eligible adults) are essentially declaring that their vote really doesn’t matter.
If this poll was taken in the context of a nation that was happy with the direction of the country, one could conclude that it is a reflection of satisfaction with their elected officials.
After all, the truism that people are more likely to vote when they are demanding change rather than supporting the status quo remains a fact of voter behavior.
But how do you reconcile a dissatisfied electorate with a dramatic drop in voter enthusiasm?
The only possible conclusion is that Americans don’t trust the entire lot of politicians in Washington, D.C., coming to the conclusion that neither political party offers a choice that is going to make their lives better.
America's middle class is being annihilated by a combination of overseas labor, regulatory policies that target and destroy blue-collar jobs, and trade policies that incentivize companies like GE to move the production of light bulbs from a facility in Virginia to China (after lobbying to make the Virginia manufactured light bulbs illegal.)
The Democrats offer class-warfare arguments that deny the expanding economic pie that is the history of America’s prosperity delivered in a freedom-hating sneer.
Republicans, for their part, are seen as being nothing more than corporate whores, who care little about the lives of those who don't have lobbyists prowling Capitol Hill.
The system is set up so an automatic flushing process like term limits can never become law, and the political lines are drawn so that for a vast majority of Members of Congress, once they are elected, have a seat in Congress until they decide to cash out.
In essence, this Gallup poll forces the question to be asked if most Americans have given up on the notion that D.C. can be fixed.
If this attitude is not turned around, it just may be the canary in the coal mine signaling the beginning of the end for our constitutional republic.Rick Manning is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government