December 18, 2023 4:23 PM
The following is a guest op-ed from Former U.S. Representative Scott Klug (R-WI). Rep. Klug hosts a podcast called Lost in the Middle. He will release a new episode this week highlighting the importance of swing voters in Georgia.
TICKET SPLITTING IN GEORGIA
I grew up in a mixed household. My mom, Irish, Catholic, daughter of a union railroad worker. My dad the opposite, German, Lutheran, Republican business executive. Needless to say we didn’t talk much about the infallibility of the Pope or politics. On those rare times when an argument broke out, it was best to just pass the mashed potatoes and keep quiet.
But at the end of the day they always voted, and more often than not, each splitting their own ballot, for a Republican here and a Democrat there. For decades, my dad the Republican always supported iconic Democrat Sen. Bill Proxmire.
Sit in on any political science class today and you’ll hear ticket splitting described as a quaint practice all but vanished in this age of harsh partisanship. We live in tribes now, we are told, and pulling the straight ticket is today’s norm.
I concede that is true in races for the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, sadly only 23 out of 435 House seats are represented by a Member of Congress from the differing party of the district’s vote for President.
Today nearly every house seat is determined by the presidential vote in their district. There are only 23 exceptions.
Yet the 2022 midterm elections told a completely different story because in races across the country voters split their tickets in Senate and Governor’s races from New Hampshire in the East to Nevada in the west.
In some states like my home state of Wisconsin the practice seems embedded in its DNA. Here the liberal incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers won, and so did Ron Johnson, a conservative Republican Senator.
The secret sauce in Georgia is the now purple Atlanta suburbs where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp romped, but incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock easily pulled away from Herschel Walker.
If you are even a casual observer of politics, you can name Vermont’s quirky leftist Sen. Bernie Sanders. He was first elected with me to the House in 1990. But the most popular politician in the state is pick-up truck driving, fiscal conservative Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who was re-elected in 2022 for a third time with 71 percent of the vote.
With the Presidential election just 11 months away could that trend be repeated next fall? Unlikely say the political professionals who project that practice will all but vanish next year.
But here are some other trends that make me hopeful: 44 percent of American voters describe themselves as centrist; that adds up to 71 million bewildered political orphans. They are frustrated and angry with both political parties. We know because we hear it from voters all across the country in our podcast series, “Lost in the Middle.”
Here are a few more numbers that should rattle the establishment. Half of Americans now describe themselves as independent. People under the age of 30 shy away from party identification. Half of all voters say they are now considering a third party candidate for President.
I listened in on a focus group from last year’s Georgia election where one usually reliable suburban Republican voter wrestled with her choice for Senate. In the end she split her ticket voting for Kemp and Warnock. “It felt liberating,” she said. “It felt good to color outside the lines.”
Ah, the joys of ticket splitting.