VIEWSrnThe Revolt of the Nonvoterrnby Donald WarrenrnOn November 3, 1992, the most surprising news will notrnbe who has won the presidential election, but whether arnmajority of the 186 million Americans eligible to do so willrnhave voted. The salient question today is whether a moietyrnpromises to become a majority. Four years ago they barelyrnmissed the honor: 49.84 percent were nonvoters, with some 91rnmillion forming their ranks. Then as now, the mass mediarnwill have failed to report the biggest scoop of recent presidentialrncampaigns: the empty voting booth.rnThus far, this election year has been most remarkable for therncitizen boycott of the lengthy and extravagant sideshow knownrnas the presidential primaries. Case in point: New York state,rnwhere Bill Clinton attracted less than three percent of eligiblernvoters; the supposedly crucial contests of last spring in Illinois,rnMichigan, and then California that enticed less thanrnone in six to cast a vote for candidates Bush, Buchanan, Brown,rnClinton, or Tsongas. All told, across 27 states, voting le’els declinedrnfrom 24 percent in 1988 to just above 15 percent thisrnyear.rnThe groundswell of apparent disinterest and disdain for thernelection process, already evident with the election of John F.rnKennedy in 1960 (when 62.8 percent of the electorate par-rnDonald Warren is a political sociologist and author of ThernRadical Center (J 976).rnticipated), has increased steadily over the seven subsequentrnpresidential elections. In the last presidential contest, while 5.2rnmillion persons were added to the ranks of voters since 1984,rn9.2 million chose the ranks of nonvoters. Between 1968 andrn1988, the group choosing not to vote in presidential electionsrnmore than doubled, increasing by over 44 million persons; inrnthe same period, voters increased bv only 19 million. Ourrnnation’s most recent presidential contest between GeorgernBush and Michael Dukakis was particularly memorable forrnthe fact that it resulted in an event not seen in this century: arndecline in the absolute number of voters compared to the previousrnquadri-annual campaign. This uninspired pairing luredrn81 million persons to the voting booth compared to 83 millionrnin the Reagan-Mondale match-up. This, despite the fact thatrnthe number of potential members of the electorate increasedrnduring the four-year interval by eight million!rnYet the major parties continue to focus on conversion, ratherrnthan recruitment. “Getting the vote out” is, of course, a noblernsentiment in theory, but one which in practice means persuadingrnsupporters of the other side to switch. For Democrats,rnthis has traditionally meant those at the bottom of thernsocial structure, and for Republicans the call rests on an identificationrnwith the prospects of upward social mobility regardlessrnof one’s present station in life. Still, it seems evidentrnthat neither major party wishes to foster or endorse a revolt ofrn16/CHRONICLESrnrnrn