Forget the 99 Percent. What About the 25 Percent

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 We’re seeing the Occupy Wall Street movement spread throughout the nation as folks who are angry with the banks, the government, and the rich, are banding together to tell the world they are mad as heck and won’t take it anymore.

Some of it has gotten out of hand.  Oakland, for example, has seen injuries and police intervention.  In other areas, the protests have created some headlines and helped provide some active video for television newscasts.

The protestors will tell you they are the ninety-nine percent who feel marginalized in our society.  They will say the rich are getting richer, the banks are getting off without penalty, and the government is controlled by special interests intent on keeping the status quo. 

What are the ninety-nine percent doing about it?  If you set aside the violence that has rocked the Oakland protests, it appears these groups are doing nothing more than exercising their right to free speech.  Sure, they might get noisy when the media is around, but other than the old 1960’s chants with new lyrics, we haven’t seen a groundswell of public outcry.

One author in the Bay Area suggested the Occupiers reach out to the Tea Party to find common ground, and maybe get a few pointers on leveraging citizen disappointment to effect changes in our government.  The Tea Party was disappointed with the status quo too. 

They raised money and got people elected to Congress and other places.

A newspaper editor in a community I worked in back in upstate New York suggests we forget about the ninety-nine percent and focus on the twenty-five percent. 

Mark Gillespie of the Livingston County News writes that the twenty-five percent, approximately the percentage of citizens of voting age who actually participated in the last election, are the ones with the real power. 

November brings elections and I shudder to think what the actual voter turnout will be this time around.  Americans do a pretty good job of raising their voices to express their discontent.  But when it comes time to participate in the electoral process, we’re very good at sitting on our hands.   

The Occupiers might have done a greater service to their followers had they handed each participant a voter registration card.  Maybe that’s coming in phase two. 

Whatever happens to this group, or the other organizers who are bound to stand up and demand to be counted, one thing remains.  America has one of the world’s highest percentages of eligible voters who do not vote.

This week we’ll honor the brave men and women who have put their life on the line defending our country through military service.  With Election Day and Veterans Day falling in the same week this year, what a wonderful tribute it would be to see that percentage of eligible voters actually taking part in the process increase this time around. 

Apathy is an insidious adversary.  It takes its’ time to build into a powerful force.  It entraps before anyone knows what has happened. 

The real power in America lies in the hands of eligible voters who are in a position to effect a change in their government, or keep it the way it is. 

So let’s be mindful of those who say they represent the ninety-nine percent, and be concerned with the number that really matters.  That number is the percentage of eligible voters actually voting. 

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.