Areport last week on voter registration in Jackson County should give pause not only to Democrats, who have seen their gains of 2008 slip away, but to both major parties — whose increasing partisanship and intransigence is turning off voters across the board.
A story in Thursday's Mail Tribune showed that both Republicans and Democrats have seen their numbers decline in the county. But what was a 2,400 voter advantage for the GOP in 2008 is now a 4,800 margin.
Clearly, that should worry local Democrats. There seems little question that the enthusiasm of 2008 has waned as the reality sinks in that a Democratic president cannot deliver on all his promises and the economy will not be lifted by a "Hope and Change" mantra alone.
Republicans seem without question to be more charged up in this political season, not an unusual circumstance for a party that has been overshadowed by its political opposite for four years. The angst of those four years has driven Republicans more than Democrats to get out the vote.
But Thursday's story had a subtext: While the Democrats have 4,490 fewer registered voters than in 2008 and the Republicans 2,123 fewer, the numbers of non-affiliated voters and minor party voters has grown by 4,119.
All of these numbers were just a snapshot taken on one day last week and will certainly change by the end of day Oct. 16, the last day to register for the Nov. 6 election. But they should send a message to the true believers in both parties: Your message is increasingly becoming a turn-off.
Check the job rating given members of Congress after they scurried out of Washington, D.C., last week to focus on what they consider their No. 1 priority, getting re-elected. The approval rating for Congress is rarely great — the historical average is 33 percent. But that's a downright glowing, star-on-your-report-card grade compared with the 13 percent rating the current Congress "enjoys."
We have to say, they've earned it. The leadership of both parties (are you listening, Greg Walden?) have (1) lost total control, (2) lost their moral compass or (3) lost their minds. Possibly all of the above.
There is no question they are focused on exercising their power, pushing their agendas and blocking any efforts by the other side to pass meaningful legislation. This applies equally to Republicans and Democrats, who are so firmly entrenched in their own muddy ruts that they've forgotten they're supposed to be Americans, too.
People get worked up over national politics in part because they feel they have so little control over them. They may adamantly oppose the war in Afghanistan, adamantly oppose Obama's health care reforms or adamantly oppose Daylight Saving Time. Doesn't really seem to matter. Send your congressman or senator a letter expressing your viewpoint and you'll likely get a form letter in return.
Now leadership in both parties are turning their backs on critical legislation, pushing the country toward a fiscal cliff because neither side will blink. The federal Farm Bill will expire while they are out getting themselves re-elected and they've failed to resolved legislation on everything from highway funding to student loans to the mounting debt of the Postal Service.
Instead, they've chosen, in the current vernacular, to kick the can down the road.
Voters are slowly — too slowly in our opinion — recognizing the failure of the parties. But they are recognizing it. One day, the parties and their leaders may wake up to realize that while they were busy kicking the can down the road, the voters decided to kick them to the curb.