Oct 3, 2023
“Age is a wormhole that allows ‘experienced’ time travelers to live tomorrow today.”
It’s Autumn 2023, and we’re all looking forward to the 2024 Presidential Campaign (or not). From today’s perspective, it looks as though this election will revolve around a single issue…and that issue will not be abortion.
Since the 1960s, political scientists have written at length about the phenomenon of single issue voting. It probably began in earnest during the War in Vietnam. A brand-new voter at that time, I remember not caring whether a candidate was Republican or Democrat, just as long as they were opposed to the war. So, Johnson and Nixon, nyet; Romney and McCarthy, da!
The 70s were dominated by two new single issues: abortion and forced busing. The Culture Wars were underway. Since then, nearly every election cycle has seen the emergence of new single issue voters, rallying around new, or recurring, causes.
From 1968 to now, single issue voters have always been a vocal minority; but they have always spoken with just one voice: if the War was your issue, you were against it; same with abortion-on-demand and forced busing.
2024 will see single issue voting as well; but things will be different: (1) For the first time, single issue voters will make up the majority of the electorate; (2) for the first time, those single issue voters will speak with two voices, not one.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that there will be more than one single issue; that’s certainly happened before. Nor am I saying that people will be split pro and con on the issue. The majority of 2024 voters will be guided by a single issue, and they will all be on the same side of that issue; yet they will speak with two voices.
“How is this possible?” Well, you’re not the first person to ask that question! Let’s look ahead.
On November 6, 2024, The New York Times will publish its post-election analysis; it will start with exit polling numbers on its front page; here’s how those numbers will read:
What was the most important issue for you in this election?
The future of American democracy – 66%
Abortion – 15%
The economy, taxes, spending, etc. – 12%
Foreign policy – 7%
Which party’s nominee did you vote for?
Republican – 50%
Democrat – 50%
Then, on page 2, look for selected voter interviews; here are two representative samples:
1.“I voted for the Democrat. The Republicans resisted mail-in voting. They’re trying to roll back the Voting Rights Act to restore Jim Crowe. They lost a close election in 2020, but unlike the Democrats in 2000, 2004 and 2016, they refused to concede. Instead, they papered the courts with frivolous suits, made unsubstantiated claims of fraud, and besmirched the reputations of honest election workers.
“Then, on January 6, 2021, incited by a Republican president, they descended on Washington and attempted to prevent the orderly transfer of power; they engaged in an unsuccessful insurrection. Their leader at that time is currently defending himself in 4 jurisdictions against 91 counts of criminal conduct. I usually vote Republican, but this time I had to vote for the Democrat; it was the only way I could safeguard our democracy.”
2. “I voted for the Republican. The Democrats are turning this country into a 3rd world dictatorship. Before now, when has any former president been charged with crimes after leaving office? In the past, former presidents have looked forward to speaking tours, book deals, and ribbon cuttings. From now on, they’ll be looking forward to prison. If holding political office becomes a crime, only criminals will become politicians.
“Everyone agrees that because of COVID-19, the 2020 election was unlike any other. Asking that the new procedures be thoroughly vetted, even retrospectively, makes sense. Ensuring the legitimacy of the outcome is an act of patriotism, not treason.
“The Democrats have weaponized the Judicial Branch: Office of the AG, FBI, the lower courts. On the one hand, they want to defund the police, but on the other hand, they want to turn America into a police state. I usually vote Democrat, but this time I had to vote for the Republican; it was the only way I could safeguard our democracy.”
Finally, on page 20, the Times will offer its editorial analysis: “Americans turned out in record numbers to protect and defend American democracy from its enemies, foreign and domestic; and then they split their votes evenly between the two parties.”
Older people are often accused of living in the past. The reverse is true. Age is a wormhole that allows ‘experienced’ time travelers to live tomorrow today. That can be fun, but it can also be disconcerting. Enjoy your 2024! But don’t worry, I promise not to say, “I told you so.”