Thoughts and Observations


We have had two events on the road to name the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee.  The Iowa Caucuses are over.  New Hampshire is done.  The candidates have moved on to South Carolina and are ready for Florida.  Along the way there have been a dozen or so debates.  More are scheduled. 
With all this activity, how many people have tuned in to watch the debates and election coverage?  How many of us are there?
There are over 308,000,000 million of us.  We live in a bit over 120,000,000 households.   In 2010, about 235,000,000 of us were old enough to vote.  Of course only 37% of us voted.  It was a presidential off-year election.  In the last presidential election, 2008, there were about 230,000,000 potential voters, but only 53% voted.  Over the last two elections, about 45% voted.  There may be a lot of us, but most of us do not vote.  I wonder why?   
How many of us tuned in to watch a GOP debate?  The audience size varies, but from debate to debate a reasonable high mid range estimate, for any given debate, is about  5,000,000.  One debate did attract 7,000,000 or more viewers.  I don’t have any idea what proportion of debate viewers have been repeat viewers and how many tuned in for the first time.  I have a feeling debate viewers are pretty much the same folks who tune in for each debate.  Is 95% a reasonable guess as to what proportion watch debates the way a lot more people tune into American Idol?  
If we use 5,000,000 as a typical debate audience size and then assume they are all eligible voters, then about 2% of  possible voters(at best)  take the time to follow American politics.  Thats a small number.  I assume debate viewers are political junkies, reporters, and operatives.  As a percentage of the total population, only 1.6% watch GOP debates. 
Some of us have tuned in to watch TV coverage of the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary returns.  Over three networks, FOX, CNN and MSNBC, about 2,200,000 watched as Romney won both contests.  That means only about 0.9% of possible voters watched the returns.  It’s 0.7% of the general population.  The numbers seem small to me since 24,000,000 us watched Alabama beat LSU in the BCS game (that’s 10% of possible voters).  Why so small an audience for something that really matters?
I wonder, would more of us pay more attention if the primaries began with large urban states.  Imagine if the first three states were New York, California, and Florida and were then followed by MIchigan and Texas.  Would we see a better class of candidates run for office.  If candidates, especially on the GOP side, did not have to face an onslaught and gauntlet of evangefundie voters first, would others run?  Has the nature of candidates become captive to a minority in the larger party?  If others ran and the initial primaries were held in states  more representative of the nation as a whole, would people have more interest and tune in to debates and follow returns.  Does the rural small state outset deter the average American from engaging in politics?  

Congressional Representation:  

I doubt too many people will argue with the idea that there’s too much money involved in our assorted political campaigns.   It takes so much money, incumbents spend more time raising  cash for the next election than doing what we elected them to do in the first place.  Money has a corrupting influence, especially as we have allowed our elective offices to become careers.  
I doubt we can legislate controls. Besides, as soon an effective control is put in place the Supreme Court will find a way to render it unconstitutional.   Is there any way to get the money out and put the legislating back in?  Sure.  We can increase the size of the House of Representatives.  
The Constitutional minimum is one Representative for every 30,000 citizens.  Unfortunately the upper limit was never accepted by the States in the Bill of Rights.  That First Amendment is still pending approval.  Why not accept an upper limit of 40,000 people per Rep.?  That might make a difference in how much it takes to get elected and it might reduce the chances of being reelected since it’s a lot easier to get to know your Rep. when he’s one in 40,000 as opposed to one in 700,000.
Oh, we make one other little change.  We eliminate pensions for serving in Congress.