ID8 Nation Publisher Thom Ruhe weighs in on the mistake that politicians and first-time entrepreneurs tend to make and why both need reality checks.

Entrepreneurs are a favorite prop for politicians running for office. They invoke them when trying to rationalize a particularly partisan tax policy or attack a social program, but by and large do not realize what genuine needs entrepreneurs have or the problems they face.

If they did, they would never commit self-inflicted wounds such as diminishing our country’s creditworthiness (thereby increasing the cost of our deficit and tightening credit markets) via avoidable government shutdowns. They also would demonstrate a better work ethic instead of being the least productive Congress in history. No entrepreneur achieves success based upon obstruction, inaction and faulty assumptions.

And making faulty assumptions is the main topic of this post.

“A shellacking … a buttwhooping … a clear mandate from voters.” Pundits and politicians used these and other expressions to describe the results of the 2014 midterm elections. However, my experience as an entrepreneur has taught me to challenge assumptions.

One of the things that can wound you when growing a company is a faulty assumption, a conclusion made without inadequate vetting or data. It is why I urge first-time entrepreneurs to get feedback from strangers, or anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in you or your success. They should avoid the echo chamber of family, friends and supporters. This also applies to politicians who surround themselves with party loyalists.

I dug into the recent election data and found some interesting things.

The first thing I discovered was the sad fact that the 2014 midterms saw the lowest overall voter turnout (36.4%) since 1942! But the low turnout in 1942 was a bit more understandable considering the nation was embroiled in World War II at the time.

According to the United States Election Project produced by University of Florida Associate Professor Michael McDonald, the voting eligible population for the midterm elections was 227,224,334 people. Only 36.4% of them (82,709,657) voted — and this is where it gets interesting.

Again, from the work by Mr. McDonald, the total number of votes cast (only) for Republicans and Democrats in the eight states that went from blue to red – therewith providing the ‘trouncing’ — was 7,794,272. There were third-party candidates in some of the those races, but I did not include them as I could not assume a vote for a third-party candidate was at the expense of a vote for a Republican or Democrat. That disclosed, the differential between Republican and Democrat votes in the eight races that altered the Senate majority was 593,246.

When you look at data this way, things start becoming clear. I begin with the obvious – only a little more than a third of the country expressed their views on anything by voting. Right out of the gate, you cannot conclude a majority view for anything or anyone when 63.6% of the country didn’t vote. That is something politicians should care about, but don’t in any sincere way.

As for the eight races that flipped the Senate, they represented 9.42% of the votes cast by the paltry 36.4% who went to the polls. That’s only 3.43% of the eligible electorate.

Going more granular, combining the eight races that flipped control in the Senate, the Republican vote advantage over Democrats was 593,246 votes from the 82,709,658 voter turnout – or 0.00717%. When you consider the total eligible voter population, that ‘margin’ drops to 0.00261%.

0.00261% of total eligible voters isn’t a mandate for anything.

Mark Twain famously said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Politicians need to learn this, and many other things from entrepreneurs. If they did, maybe they wouldn’t be suffering from historically low approval ratings and might surprise the electorate by actually getting some work done. They can start by realizing their clients are all Americans – and not just the ones from their political party. Maybe then more citizens would exercise their duty to vote … and yes, I said duty.

Photo courtesy of Vox Efx


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