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machine politics
How the Blue Model Stays in Place

Over at the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone highlights a curious pattern in America’s biggest blue cities: Hardly anyone is turning out to vote.

Los Angeles is not unique for low turnout in mayoral elections in very large cities. When Mayor Bill de Blasio was elected Mayor of New York in November 2013, turnout was the lowest since 1929. In an initial primary in March 2015 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel received 218,217 votes—far below the 708,222 votes received by Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1955, a number he put on his license plates ever after. Chicago’s population today is lower than it was in the 1950s, but New York’s population is the highest ever, 1.5 million more than it was in 1929.

Declining voter turnout has tracked the consolidation of Democratic power in big cities. Married middle-class homeowners, who reliably show up at the ballot box (and tend to lean right), have increasingly left for the suburbs. Blue cities like Los Angeles are highly unequal, with small wealthy populations that tend to vote Democratic because of social issues, and large impoverished (often minority or immigrant) populations that are loyal to the Democratic Party but have lower turnout rates overall.

Unionized public employees are one of the only major middle-class constituencies left in many big blue cities. And while large groups of voters don’t feel like they have a stake in city politics, public employees (whose salaries and pensions are at stake) remain highly engaged. Public unions today wield far more influence in city politics than they did in the days of lower turnout and more competitive elections. In other words, a single interest group is accumulating increasing power to direct city politics even as demographic changes lead more and more voters to withdraw from the process altogether.

Needless to say, this is not a sign of a healthy political system. Read Barone’s whole piece to learn more about how we got here.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Why bother voting in essentially uncontested elections? The conservatives don’t because it won’t affect the outcome, the liberals because (other than public employees) they don’t need to.

  • Gary Hemminger

    Why is this news? Why vote when you know exactly who is going to win every election in these cities? The only people who will vote are those that have to vote to ensure their payout. This really isn’t surprising at all. I am in California, and it makes no logical sense to vote for a presidential candidate, because there is 0% chance a republican will win CA’s electoral vote. There is no reason to even have a presidential vote in this state. There is no sense in voting if you know who will win. This isn’t just an issue with presidential votes in this state. There are no competitive political elections at all in California. there is no reason to even have a vote.

    • FriendlyGoat

      I take it you are a crusader for national popular vote to determine the presidency so that California Republicans’ votes would become meaningful in that election, no?

  • Gary Hemminger

    This is a feature of the blue model. Raise taxes so high that only the rich and poor can stay. They vote nothing but democrat, and the public sector unions reap the benefits. this isn’t a bug, it is a feature. As long as it is democrats doing it, then it is okay. Just ask a democrat what they think of this, and they will either deny it or say it is fine. It makes sense if you think about it. Republicans are evil, bigoted, homophobic, xenophobes. Democrats are good, caring people who are on the right side of history. So of course anything that keeps them in power promotes good. Anything that keeps Republicans out of power also promotes the good. I don’t see why this isn’t clear to any good forthright citizen.

    • Gary Hemminger

      The fact that one power rule eventually corrupts is simply a negative side effect of democratic majorities. But this side effect doesn’t change the fact that good must triumph over republican evil.

  • PCB

    For this phenomena to be more meaningful, or at least more interesting, it would be helpful to know how this mayoral election voting trend compares to presidential elections voting trends in these major Blue cities. I would predict, over the last 75-100 years, Blue city/state voters (at least the Democratic Party members) vote in much higher numbers in Presidential elections, despite not turning out for mayoral elections, and, this would correspond with the great expansion of federal government and administrative agencies over this same period. The 2016 Presidential Election, whereas, with Trump winning the electoral vote, while HRC the popular vote, would seem to support this prediction. As an aside, in the heavily Democratic south-western PA region where I live, it is permitted, and quite common, for local candidates to run under both party’s ticket, due to a lack of Republican challengers to incumbent Democrats.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Something that can’t continue, won’t. The Leftists are killing the cities, and fly over country won’t help them, and wants to see them crash and burn. I foresee many bankruptcies, and court ordered haircuts to the bureaucrats wages and benefits. Heavily taxed mobile businesses will leave. Improvements in transportation (flying cars, self driving vehicles, telecommuting) will make living and paying taxes in cheaper markets viable. The advantages of cities to generate business, is declining.

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