by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
May I rant? It helps me to think out loud. Maybe you will find it helpful too. (or just ignore this if you like.)
Democrats are loosing in state after state and in federal elections because they are acting too white and wealthy for their base, the REAL latent base of the party. And this base is NOT its liberal donors. Dem donors are nice folks, but they can’t compete with the GOP donor machines. (Nor should they try)
According to OpenSecrets.org, from the prior election, two-thirds of corporate donations go to the GOP and one-third to Dem’s. That’s more than enough money to distract Democratic candidates. But that’s not the whole story.
We already have a party of wealthy white guys, so we don’t need another party of wealthy (relative term here, not pejorative) white gals or guys to oppose them. As badly as the GOP is exploiting and marginalizing woman (treating them like subordinates), woman’s issues are not winning over woman like it should, not even female Democrats. But that’s not the whole story either.
We need a Democratic party that gets intimately in touch with the needs of the ordinary people who haven’t been voting lately, people who, from their distal vantage, can’t tell the two parties apart. Their issues are literally bread and butter, not theoretical or ideological economics. They live in a deflationary universe where wages are flat and a dollar keeps shrinking. Their daily sweat has been sanitized and turned into a market commodity. There is no profit left in labor for them. They know their children will have no inheritance because everything they own can be sold at a flee market.
The middle class that we usually picture in our mind is not the middle income folks of today. Popular culture’s view, reinforced by network TV’s portrayals of middle-class lifestyles, matches people making more than $100,000 a year, twice the median wage. Which politicians for federal office speak openly and bravely for this half of our hard working citizens who make less than $50,000 per year? You can’t reach them by talk of job creation! Most of them have more jobs than they can handle.
If we think of the lower half of wage earners as being made up of those who are working and those looking for work, then 7% unemployed minus the 50% who earn less than a middle wage leaves 43% of the wage earners who are not being represented by either party. Of this group, those who call themselves Democrats aren’t showing up to vote. Why should they? What will change when no one seems to notice them?
Republican in this same low income group do show up to vote, but that’s because they are cynically manipulated by the wealthy wing of the GOP. They are voting out of fear, anger and pain. The wealthy wing of the GOP hears their pain even as it twist the knife.
Democrats in public office, or running for office, don’t want to ruffle the feathers of the powerful minority groups (Wall Street, CEO’s, Billionaires, etc.) even though these folks aren’t voting for them. Money is tight. I get that.
Let me give you just two examples from two New Jersey congressional races that were below the national radar, The incumbent Republican, Rodney Frelinghuysen, raise 7 times more money than his Democratic challenger, Mark Dunec in the 11th District. Incumbent Republican Leonard Lance raised 8 times more than his Democratic challenger, Janice Kovach in the 7th District. All this money did not come from the 43% of hard working American’s who still need some form of government subsidy to survive.
And what help did these Democratic candidates get from their party elders? Very little! A decision was made to write off these districts. The slick election strategy that carefully targets resources to the most competitive races writes off the needs of millions of people who have every right to be represented. The big get out the vote strategy touted by the party fizzled because they didn’t have an explosive message to motivate the 43%ers.
People who live below the median wage level have one thing in common with the richest billionaires… their vote is just as powerful. One person! One vote! It isn’t how corporations operate; It’s how democracies operate. And until Democrats start collecting those uncast vote, instead of appeasing the rich, Democrats will continue to loose.
It is time to stop playing the Republican’s game.
Here is a helpful article by Robert Reich that says in fewer word what I am trying to say above.
Anyway, I’m done with my rant. Thanks for listening, even if you didn’t make it this far. All the best in the future.
Image Credit: http://news.yourolivebranch.org/2011/05/24/iec-declares-election-free-and-fair/
I made it to the end. And then some. You’re right when you say that Republican’s cynically use fear to get working class voters to belly-up to the polling booth and vote against their own self interest. Fear. Fear of minorities in our cities and across the borders–even though working class folk have more in common with those same minorities–whether citizens or not. Fear that the world of the future won’t look like “their” world.(Just like this president doesn’t look like the rich old white guy that matches their presidential expectations.)
What else? Fear of plagues (Ebola)–unsubstantiated by the facts. They tap into fear that climate change will change their way of life–Lord knows people hate change and uncertainty so much that they’d rather stick their heads in the sand and deny, deny, deny—come what may. And don’t forget the fear of things not fully understood, like science and facts.
So, they can whip up their electorate to vote for the oligarchy. That I understand.
What I don’t understand is the failure of supposedly rational thinking people to vote. We could turn this around. We could turn climate change into an economic opportunity to lead the world into the next, sustainable century. We could raise taxes on corporations to the level that existed in the “great years,” before 1973, when companies paid their fair share of the cost of governance (and when we’d have prosecuted the tax scofflaws so many of them are now!) We could invest in job creation and training so that all Americans benefit from the changing technologies that face us, and while we’re at it, we could raise the minimum wage to a level of survival, and not serfdom. Why wouldn’t you vote for that? Why stay home, and shrug and let things deteriorate further? That’s the ticket to success, to wake up people who approach the future, not with fear, but with facts. Who, cognizant of the risks and challenges, see a brighter future if we address the challenges with action and not denial. Where are these people and why didn’t they vote.
I acknowledge that the system is broken. I bemoan that money corrupts it and hands the reins of power to the corporate and wealth elites. But voting could change that. Voting in spite of the money, against the money. In this day when the internet can help you dig out the facts to show you another way, why are so many sitting on their hands (or more likely twiddling their thumbs on the keyboards of their smart phones?)
Yours is one of the most thoughtful and well written responses to my articles, so thank you for taking the time. Feedback is critical to critical thinking and I don’t get enough of it. I like what you have added in your description of the role fear and ignorance plays in our politics.
As for people who don’t turn out to vote? I share your vision of how world changing it would be if everyone voted. It seems like so little to ask. Yet we have millions who don’t even know the name of the Vice President or which party Obama is from. They live in a different world. For many, politics and policy seems so remote that they can’t imagine it has any impact on their daily lives. They don’t have time or inclination to think about things in this way. But actually, this is just a guess because no one is studying this group very closely (that I can see). No one is asking about them.
In the last presidential election only 60% of eligible voters voted. That means 40% didn’t participate. In the mid-terms just passed the participation rate dropped below the 2008 levels, which is pretty low.
I think people are deeply depressed about politics and government since nothing they say or do seems to make any difference to them.