What Anti-Trump Protestors Should Have Done

November 15th 2016

Mike Rothschild

During his speech at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama updated the old maxim, "if you don't vote, you can't complain," by telling the crowd "don't boo, vote." Given that Democratic turnout ended up falling by nearly six million votes from 2012 to 2016, it's clear some didn't listen.

A report from Portland TV station KGW shows the extent of the problem of non-voting, singling out protestors who were arrested during the city's anti-Trump protests over the weekend. What they found is a reminder of the apathy that gripped much of the public.

KGW obtained the names and addresses of all 112 people arrested in Portland, and compared it to voting logs from the 2016 election. They found that 35 of the protestors weren't registered to vote in Oregon, and another 34 hadn't returned a ballot. Only 25 arrested protestors could actually be confirmed as having voted, with the status of others unconfirmed.

Not that voting would have changed the outcome, at least in Oregon, a state that — like the popular vote — Hillary Clinton won. But the consequences of not voting are felt in other ways. The 2010 midterm election saw a 60% drop in turnout from two years before, and Republicans won back the House and a slew of state legislatures. The turnout in 2014 was even worse, with just over a third of registered voters turning out — and Republicans winning the Senate.

Protesting is certainly an important part of the political process, and the anti-Trump marches immediately after his election might help galvanize opposition to his policies. And, indeed, politics can be engaged in through different means than just voting: many people have engaged in the aftermath of the election by calling their representatives, signing petitions, and donating to causes that might suffer under a Trump administration.

But it seems clear that if Democratic turnout had been up to the level of the two elections where President Obama won,Trump wouldn't be replacing him.