The mainstream media is overlooking quite a bit about this election, but nothing is more outstanding than the lack of discussion regarding income of voters in the party primaries.
“The voting gap” is the idea that wealthier voters turn out in higher numbers than poor ones. It is a fact, but one that everyone ignores. The theoretical logic of the voting gap follows that nothing would change with mandatory voter registration, because the poor would still think their vote doesn’t matter, but the higher turnouts for Bernie indicate something different is afoot.
One place that stands out for instance was the amount of Latino voters in IL who went for Bernie compared to those who went overwhelmingly for Hillary in Florida. It is possible that class and income is becoming an overriding factor for voters of different races who back Bernie, a factor that is not researched as much as we need it to be. (What Anderson Cooper called today “voting for one’s interests” vs. “electability”). In this case, “interests” refers to how much money you make.
Class bias in the country has run so far amok that it has become the eternal third rail. We saw it in the 2008 and 2012 election, with candidates repeatedly addressing the middle class. Obama refers consistently to building ladders to the middle class, a phrasing which Clinton has handily stolen.
One person is consistently addressing income inequity: Senator Bernie Sanders. He is making it fashionable, or at least tolerable, to actually consider class as a major factor preventing any substantial transformation to the racist, sexist, and post-capitalist system we currently have. Bernie knows about the voter gap, and believes the poor vote matters. When poor people vote, things do change. In his messaging, he calls it “high voter turnout” (“we win when voter turnout is high”) but I think there is something deeply important about the class ideology at work here.
Most pundits are looking at race, age, and party as polling indicators. Nobody wants to talk about class and income. It’s gauche and considered rude to look at who the rich and poor are voting for, but this is exactly what Bernie is speaking to directly. Nobody wants to address poverty in the rural, urban or suburban areas. Despite the fact that middle class values got our economy into the trashcan, the leaders are too far removed from real poverty to understand it.
The overwhelming majority of households in the US make under $50 or $60,000 per year, and a great majority of households making under $35 or 40,000 are in the Southern US. If those people in the South have not heard Bernie’s message, then they would not be inclined to vote for him, and even though the income levels do rise as he moves North, those incomes are still overwhelmingly low across the board ($25-35K per person). The problem is that with mainstream media failing to focus on the income issues in his platform, many disenfranchised people will not hear that message, and so the registered voters go for Clinton to keep out Trump, Cruz and the others.
Though media pundits and political leaders ensconced in their own high wage gap do not overwhelmingly support Sanders, the combined message of income inequality and getting out the vote are the two intertwined factors in his success. The fact is, most people supporting Hillary are middle income and middle age, but the numbers at the edge of that base of hers are astronomically huge. Many of those poor, young and so-called minority voters are also voting disenfranchised, so where Bernie’s success lies in is both addressing the income gap and the voting gap together.
While many of his supporters are white and middle class, Bernie’s platform addresses the issues of working people. Furthermore, the platform is built on the premise that income inequity and the corrupt campaign finance system are crippling the nation, and our ability to respond to the numerous social crises before us.
As more and more people hear this message, and figure out a way to turn up and vote, the movement he has inspired is more likely to demonstrate the importance of the income voter gap. And so a best case scenario for Bernie, for both the convention and general election in the fall, is to advocate for widespread voter drives. At the campaign’s current pace of record-breaking turnouts in most states, this dream is coming true, and a lot more is certainly possible, but more extensive voter drives would make so much more possible.
Secondly, Secretaries of State need to address the repeated shortages of voter ballots. Many countries around the world manage voting for millions of people (Often inking the thumb) in much better form than we do.
And finally, any movement that Sanders inspires now or in the future will deeply need to consider the voting gap, specifically the role of income inequity in U.S. voting, as a way of moving their message and goals forward in a profound and active way.