I think most of us will agree that, come November, no matter which presidential candidate wins the election, each will have received roughly half of the popular vote. “So what?” you might say. Well, I think that many of us do not truly appreciate what, in this case, roughly half means. Or more accurately, how roughly half feels.
Everyone understands the phrase, “Do you want the other half?” Or the silly test for optimism: “Is the glass half full or half empty?” And then there is the everyday observation: “We have half a tank.” None of these uses of the concept of half carry much emotion.
However, after the election, knowing that the candidate (party) that beat your candidate had the support of roughly half of the electorate, does, for many people, carry a lot of emotion and bewilderment. As in, “How in the world could there be so many people…. ” I often think that this bewilderment must rise to extreme for people who live in specialized enclaves, such as university professors, where they may observe that they know virtually no one who intends to vote for the other candidate.
So, I like to draw myself a mental picture of what roughly half of the electorate really means. Let’s say we fill the Broncos’ stadium with this hypothetical electorate. We are careful to evenly disperse each half throughout the stadium. What this means to me is that the persons to my left and to my right are not supporters of my candidate. Nor is the person directly below me or the person directly behind me.
Wow. When I look at it like this, I feel surrounded and outnumbered. But then I realize that the person next to me could feel the same way… left and right, front and back. That is the nature of roughly half. One of the realities that comes out of this visual is that roughly half is a whole lot of people. They can’t all be crazy. Maybe while I am “surrounded” by supporters of the other candidate, I should chat with them and try and understand their position.
We dearly need to listen to the other half. The world does not and should not revolve around either half. In fact, the roughly half split in the electorate is, and has been, the root of our republic.
Ever since the days of the Whig party, roughly half our presidents have been Republicans and roughly half of our presidents have been Democrats. There have been 19 republican presidents and 16 democratic presidents (if you count Grover Cleveland twice, who was both the 22nd and 24th president).
If this roughly half-and-half balance in the electorate is ever substantially changed, then we no longer have a republic. We have a ruling party. And there would be no point in voting because an election would only confirm the power of the ruling party.
So, be careful what you wish for. Things are precariously good right now.