PA primary results and the apathy of the electorate

Another Pennsylvania primary, another very long, very quiet, very dull day …

The good news is that the battle lines have been formed for the General Election on November 6!  Since the presidential slates are already determined, we will skip right to the contested primary battles that were decided yesterday.

On the Republican side businessman Tom Smith was the overwhelming favorite (39%) to face off against incumbent Senator Bob Casey.  This was a direct rejection of Governor Tom Corbett’s attempt to strong-arm the PA GOP into backing Steve Welch (20.8%), an on-again, off-again Democrat … er … Republican.  My dark horse pick and eventual Cranky Man vote getter, Sam Rohrer ran a surprising 2nd (22.4%), well behind Mr. Smith.

One has to wonder if Senator Casey will finally come out of his shell to face the Republican challenge and re-acquaint himself with the Pennsylvania electorate he represents.  He has been laying low for quite some time.  The only stand of note which Casey has taken lately was to condemn the Washington Nationals baseball team for their “Take back the ballpark”, anti-Phillies fan program.  Maybe SEN Casey is a bit tentative in associating himself to closely with President Obama, who is unpopular in most areas of the state not called Philadelphia.  Time will tell.

The only other Republican race of note – for nomination for Auditor General – was won by John Maher by an almost 2-1 margin over Frank Pinto. 

On the Democrats side, the only real race of interest was a nasty head-to-head contest between local wunderkind, Patrick Murphy and Kathleen Kane, a former Lackawanna County prosecutor.  This race was the nastiest.  Nastier even than the Tom Smith-Steve Welch contest.  In the end, Kane’s Pennsylvania judicial credentials won out over Murphy, who had none.  Kane will face Cumberland County prosecutor David Freed, who ran unopposed.

Aside from local questions, unopposed incumbents and challengers, and the selection of National Convention delegates, that was that.

The real story – however – was the wealth of apathy expressed by local voters.  Certainly there was a lack of big headline races with the concession of Rick Santorum in the presidential primary.  But there were several other important and very interesting partisan races as described above.  Yet turnout was extremely low on a beautiful April day. 

I know, I was there … all day and evening long!  Primary days are torture plain and simple.

Anyways, I have my theory as to why voters simply show no interest in selecting the candidates who will represent said voters’ purported civics and government philosophy in the General Election (GE). 

1.  Everyday voters simply do not care who picks the candidates that will represent them.  For some reason, they are quite content for Party Leadership – be it Democrat or Republican – to do the picking for them.  Yet as we saw yesterday, the Party Leadership does not always reflect the intent nor the best interests of the party voter.  Party leaders do not always have their hand on the pulse of their constituents.  Why most voters don’t seem to care, I have no answer.

2.  The above of course assumes that voters are paying attention.  You have to know there is a primary election to decide – or choose – to not care enough to vote.  It’s hard to reconcile that thought with the fact that this is a Presidential Election Year!  There is an overwhelming – even annoying – level of political news coverage during these campaigns.  Certainly, Rick Santorum’s decision to pull the plug on his national campaign kept voters away, as did the fact that no Democrat challenged President Obama for The Oval Office nomination.  But you have to wonder what keeps voters away from the polls when important local and regional nominations are being decided.

3.  Voters simply do not identify closely with the Parties they list as representing their political philosophy.  This is my personal choice to explain voter apathy in the primaries.  In this scenario, voters make a clear distinction between the collective identification of being a Democrat or a Republican and the leadership that actually manages, organizes, and pulls the levers operating the party’s apparatus.  The voter does not see themselves as Decision Makers, only perhaps endorsers of decisions already formulated for them.  These decisions – made by the Party Leadership – are not defined simply by who appears on the officially endorsed party slate of candidates.  It includes who gets the majority share of Party campaign funding, Party endorsement speakers, and Party-provided campaign logistics.  Here the voter sees the decisions about who will run “for them” being made weeks or months before they even step into the booth.  They are there just to rubber stamp the selections.

Either way you cut it, it’s a puzzling picture of political apathy.

2 thoughts on “PA primary results and the apathy of the electorate

  1. Most of us are not in tune with local politics. When the national stage has nothing for the electorate to decide on, it takes its toll decidedly on voter turnout.


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