What are we to make of the recent Democratic primary results, in which unknown candidates — including a current prison inmate — have managed to secure 40 percent or more of the vote in races against President Obama?
In the West Virginia Democratic primary, a Texas convict named Keith Judd won 41 percent of the vote. In the Arkansas primary, a lawyer named John Wolfe won 40 percent of the vote. In Oklahoma, a variety of candidates received 43 percent of the vote. And in yesterday’s Democratic primary in Kentucky, “uncommitted” got 42 percent of the vote. The Democratic primaries in other states have seen similarly significant votes for options other than President Obama.
Pundits have offered a variety of explanations for these curious results. They speculate that the results might be racism, or strong opposition to gay marriage in states that tend to be culturally conservative. Others reason that, because President Obama is running unopposed and therefore has long had the nomination sewn up, he isn’t trying to win crushing victories and the only people motivated to vote are those that want to send a message.
Alternatively, we might employ Occam’s Razor and conclude that a number of Democrats are voting against the President simply because they are unhappy with his performance and have decided to show that in a tangible way. Over history, in many elections for many offices, voters have chosen “none of the above” to tell the powers that be that people who are perfectly willing to fulfill their civic duty by voting are dissatisfied with the crummy choices being presented.
The states that have seen these interesting Democratic primary results are states that have been hard hit by the economy. It’s not implausible that voters would be fed up — so fed up that they are willing to take time from their normal daily activities, go to the polls, and cast a pure protest vote. That’s a powerful message, and one that President Obama and his campaign staffers may not be glad to hear.