In a Friday afternoon forum at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG), professors and pundits said the recent American political obsession with wooing soccer-moms and swing voters has led to declining political participation among lower-class voters.
The forum, entitled, "Restoring Real Democracy: Elections, Voter Turnout, and the Decline in Civic Engagement Organizations," focused on why citizens, especially lower-class voters, were staying away from the polls. Over 100 people attended the forum, which took place at the Wiener Auditorium.
Forum Chair Richard B. Freeman, Ascherman chair in economics and the faculty co-chair of the Harvard Trade Union Program, said U.S. voter turnout is lower than any other democracy. Freeman said voter turnout decreased among eligible voters of all levels of education in the years between 1964 to 1990.
The largest drop during that period, about 25 percent, occurred among people whose education ended between the ninth and 11th grades. The smallest drop was in the group of voters who earned at least a bachelor's degree.
Robert B. Reich, who served as secretary of labor in the first Clinton administration and is now professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis University, blamed low voter activity on politicians' failure to address the issues of America's less-educated, lower-class voters.
"What I have heard again and again from low-income people has a common refrain: 'I'm not involved because the process is rigged,'" he said.
"People say, 'I won't be politically involved because [politicians] won't
listen to me.'"
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