The Oscillator

About a decade or so ago I saw a movie in the theaters called Swing Vote, starring Kevin Costner as a cynical alcoholic from New Mexico with an impossibly cute daughter who, the story goes, was going to decide a whole election as his vote would determine New Mexico’s electoral votes.  What kind of people are swing voters?  I must admit some ignorance in the matter, for ever since childhood I have either not voted at all or voted strictly for one of our nation’s political parties.  I won’t mention which one, but it is probably not too hard to figure out given my comments on political matters [1].  Most of the people I know are similarly partisan on one side or another.  To be sure, there is some question about what wing of a party we might belong to, but our general partisan loyalties are fairly well-known.  If being a swing voter means that someone may or may not vote at all depending on various circumstances, then I am a swing voter, although I would consider myself an “uncertain voter.”  If being a swing voter means I am in any doubt as to my own partisan loyalties, I am not, although truth be told my specific political loyalties are first to the Kingdom of God and His laws and ways, and those laws and ways do not match up entirely with any of the political identities this side of paradise.  About that much could be said, although I do not wish to engage in that discussion now [2].

I was reminded of this subject because today I had the chance to read some news about the recent election in the Bahamas.  Although I must confess I am not very aware of the politics of our island neighbor off the coast of Florida, I have traveled to the country before, in 1992 for the Feast of Tabernacles held on Paradise Island, near the country’s capital of Nassau.  So, I am not entirely unfamiliar with the nation or its politics.  In their recent election, Bahamas’ voters gave a decisive victory to the center-right Free National Movement, which has 35 of the 39 seats in their lower house, the House of Assembly.  The other 4 seats are held by the outgoing Progressive Liberal Party, which previously governed from 2012 until the election.  During the previous election, the PLP won 29 of 38 seats up for grabs, and in 2007 the FNM had won 21 of 40 seats for a slim majority, while in 2002 the PLP had won 29 of the 40 seats available.  One can see from this that there is a fair degree of instability between the two major parties involved, and that for the past fifteen years it has been difficult for a party to win consecutive elections.

Yet despite the wide oscillation in terms of the number of seats each party has, there appears to be a more consistent degree of partisanship within the country.  For example, since 2002 the PLP has won the following percentages in each election:  51.8%, 47.02%, 48.62%, and 37%.  Likewise, the FNM has won the following share:  40.9%, 49.86%, 42.09%, and 57%.  With the high degree of turnout, this would indicate that each party has a strong partisan core (at least at present) that ensures close to 40% of the vote even in a particularly bad year but that can expand to near 60% of the vote on the high end.  The fact that since 1997, at least, each party has alternated in power, suggests that there is considerable difficulty within these parties of achieving the goals that bring the parties into power, and show that there are a great many very competitive voting districts were small but consistent shifts can lead to dramatic changes in congressional representation.  Only a few swing voters need exist in such a scenario, perhaps 5 to 10% of the electorate as a whole, to be decisive.  What is it that leads these voters to go back and forth between parties?

I don’t happen to know the answer, and I am not inclined to speculate concerning the politics of other nations.  The politics of my own country and my own institutions are troubling enough for my own tastes.  I would suggest, though, that there is a considerable degree of dissatisfaction with the well-being of common folk.  The Bahamas is a nation that depends on tourism and where business success may be seen as requiring strong political connections.  The oscillation between conservative and “progressive” governments may involve the frequent repealing of laws passed by a previous administration, leading to a certain degree of instability within the nation as a whole.  Also, at least from what I have been able to read, there have been  concerns about Bahamian nationalism and problems of illegal immigration.  Given such a potent mixture of instability and fear for the future, it is little wonder that there are some whose panicky changes of opinion mark dramatic shifts within the political order of the Bahamas, something especially true considering the nation as a whole has less than half a million people.  With such a small group of people, any number of people could be the swing voters that make the politics of the Bahamas so wildly unstable.  Who knows who such oscillators may be?

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/12/22/a-thin-line-between-libertarian-and-libertine/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/12/30/book-review-election-2014-why-the-republicans-swept-the-midterms/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/18/book-review-the-triumph-of-william-mckinley/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/12/19/book-review-so-help-me-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/11/16/book-review-theres-nothing-in-the-middle-of-the-road-but-yellow-stripes-and-dead-armadillos/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/04/24/book-review-going-red/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/04/02/book-review-solutions-2016/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/15/better-half-a-loaf-than-none-a-textual-analysis/

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About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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