The disbelief in the room was audible. I had just informed students in my college mass media class that – yes – a felon could be president.
A multiple felon. A sentence-serving felon, as long as the felon is 35 and a citizen. Check your Constitution. Check Google.
One student said she heard someone could be disqualified for engaging in an insurrection.
True. In fact, a Denver judge just allowed a suit on that matter to proceed. But — well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The means of making all these matters moot is the ballot box.
To that end, those disbelieving young voters are most crucial.
Will they ply their disaffection into throw-away protest votes? Will they reprise the 2016 college fad of “Vote for Nobody”?
Let’s assault that absurdity first. If you voted for “nobody,” indeed you voted for someone: the winner. Congratulations.
So let’s get real. To blame the Electoral College or Hillary Clinton’s battleground strategy for 2016 ignores the chief culprit: criminally low turnout.
Four in 10 eligible voters stayed home. The result: a criminally corrupt president, an end to reproductive and gender-affirming care in a broad swath of states, the clear-cutting of environmental laws.
Fortunately for democracy, a super-charged turnout in 2020 screamed “buyer’s remorse.”
Since then, stunning rebukes have visited anti-choice initiatives and MAGA candidates.
Things should be looking up – as is the U.S. economy – except for a general malaise that, we’re led to believe, endangers a second Biden term.
However, the truth is that the only thing that can put an intensely hated, twice-impeached, criminally indicted, civilly liable, thoroughly disgraced con man back in the White House is the kind of apathy that put him there once before.
Low turnout would make it more likely that world-changing anomalies like what happened in Florida in 2000 dictate events.
In that too-close result, just a sliver of the 97,421 hyper-environmental Green Party voters in Florida who marked “Ralph Nader” could have awarded the presidency to Al Gore. Gore would turn around and win the Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental activism. Good job, Green voters.
The Green Party is back, but is a little pale at the gills. Right now it doesn’t have a standard-bearer after Cornel West said he would not accept its nomination.
Indeed, even Nader has said he will vote for Biden. He knows that every progressive “protest” vote is a Trump vote.
No Labels, which dreams of a non-partisan, middle-of-the-road super ticket, has a real dilemma. Its leaders say they won’t enter the presidential race if it helps elect Trump.
It is impossible to predict what would happen, particularly without a face to attach to No Label’s amorphous aims.
Let’s just say, however, that if it does siphon decisive votes from Biden, No Labels will stand for more Clarence Thomases and Samuel Alitos on the federal bench, an end to U.S. support for Ukraine (and NATO?), demolition of any policy deemed green, and a place at the White House table once more for white supremacists and Kanye West.
Oh, and we can’t ignore Robert F. Kennedy Jr., now running as an independent.
Environmentalism has been the prime focus of RFK Jr.’s political activities. Does he serve that cause if he helps put history’s most anti-environmental president back in charge?
But, wait. Analysts see Kennedy as more of a threat to Trump. Indeed, Kennedy’s anti-vaccine appeals and conspiracy theories have made him a favorite of Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon.
So, an “anti-vaccine” bloc of voters? Not to dismiss its political presence, but from a strategy standpoint it sounds a little like appealing to the “anti-turn-signal” bloc of motorists.
Will all this help or hurt democracy? I’m confident in saying that if we have a robust sampling of what this nation wants, including votes by the young ones aghast at the possibilities many now are only pondering, our democracy will come out ahead.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.