Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Party’

It’s the Economic Collapse, and We’re Not Stupid

November 18, 2010

There are opinions aplenty on the meaning of the midterm election results  Here’s my two bits:  Don’t read the “tea leaves” wrong. No matter how loudly some may proclaim, the election was not a wholesale swing of support from the Democratic to the Republican agenda by the American people.  Similarly, the results were not “it’s the economy, stupid,” – anger that recovery has not been accomplished in 18 months. Consider that the real story was “it’s the economic collapse, and we’re not stupid.”

Midterm elections always see a drop in turnout, but this one was amplified by major social upheaval.  This worst economic collapse in 80 years was bound to cause severe social disruption. Millions are out of work, have lost their homes and schools, moved and become disconnected from the political process. Millions are in personal crisis and, when in personal crisis, people deal with it personally.  They become depressed and disheartened. And this collapse has fallen most heavily on the lives and spirits of whom? The middle class, young folk, low-income families, and minority group members.

Data is still accumulating, but indications are that those above didn’t vote in numbers they did in 2008. For example, the youth vote was down from 18% to 11% of the electorate. As a Democratic precinct chair, I called voters in my precinct to encourage voting. Again and again, for young voters I heard “not a working number.” They likely moved and became separated from their voting “home” where they’re registered to vote. University students who had been misled to register back in their home counties tried to vote where they were on election day and could not.  What a shame!  Seeing this, I thought of the many others who could be thus disconnected from the electoral process and I realized that it was not just young folk.  Not this time.

So, the message of the election was not in the “will of the voters” but in the pain of the nonvoters. Millions were disenfranchised by economic and social disruption, and progressives and Democrats didn’t do a good enough job of communicating with them to maintain their political involvement.  Still, most of them would have voted as they did in 2008. And, on issue after issue, Americans support progressive public policies that help ordinary Americans and provide security and wellbeing for all – policies championed and implemented by President Obama and the Democrats. Many are aware that it was capitalistic economic and regulatory policy that directly caused the recession and the greatest income inequality in the history of our nation.  They see the Republicans now calling for more of the same and they don’t want it.

Also not surprising for a time of economic upheaval, we’ve seen the corrupting influence of piles of dough from anonymous capitalist sources. It is more than ironic that, after unfettered capitalism caused the economic collapse, now, after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, it wrecked further havoc on the democratic process. It anonymously funded lies and spin, hate, fear and division to further its purposes. It co-opted the tea partiers and turned normally rational (and probably even surprised) Republicans to its will. Unfortunately, fear, hatred of others and lies can motivate some to vote, even to vote against their own best interests.

In particular, small business owners may have voted against their own best interest. If you are one, do the math on your business plan if middle-class incomes drop, jobs go away and there is less demand for goods and services you provide.  Which would you rather have, a small tax cut or a much larger income from higher demand? Which of those will lead you to add jobs and build the economy?

Keep in mind that our federal taxes actually are very low – comparable to the 1950s overall. And Democrats in Congress – some of whom ironically just got voted out of power – brought businesses all kinds of tax deductions and credits to spur growth and gave over 95% of working Americans a tax cut. They did so against stiff Republican opposition. The Bush tax cuts that Republicans now want to continue for the highest incomes have been in effect since 2001.  They haven’t created any jobs and represent $700 billion of the deficit.

Since much of federal spending goes to states and local governments, when federal spending drops, state and local costs go up.  Texas has around a $20 billion dollar deficit right now, even after receiving massive assistance from the federal government our Governor demonizes.  If that shortfall is resolved by service cuts, YOUR prosperity will drop because it’s dependent on the prosperity of everyone else. Do you really want low taxes and low services from your government?  Do you really want cuts in government spending even though it makes no business sense for you?

The Republican Party of today has become the servant of the very, very wealthy – banksters, Wall Streetwalkers, multi-national corporations and their CEOs.  Aside from tax cuts on high incomes, they seek deregulation for big polluters and financial firms.  They want to shrink the parts of government that help ordinary Americans and the parts that would hold big money accountable.  Small businesses and individuals at all income levels have always fared better under Democratic government.  It’s a fact.  Everyone prospers when every one prospers.

So the “message in the bottle” is that, while economic collapse and social disarray disenfranchised many, they are still out here and will return to the political arena. It is the high-turnout, not the low-turnout, election that is the better indicator of the will of the voters. So, though the tea party/Republican agenda may have scored a temporary and limited victory, its days are numbered.  It looks backward to a past that never was, is out of touch with reality (to put it nicely), is socially divisive, has no concrete plans to improve our lives and prioritizes capitalism over people and the Earth.  I don’t think most Americans want that.

Moving the Progressive Agenda in the Democratic Party

December 20, 2009

If we’re disappointed in the direction of recent events, progressives should take heart and double down on efforts to bring about change by working within the Democratic Party.

First, consider that it was NOT ALL Democrats who have given in to corporate greed in both the health care and financial reforms.  In fact MOST have not and the platform for the Democratic Party called for universal health care.  And we are going to get SOME reforms that WILL help millions of people.  It’s NOT enough, but it’s NOT nothing.

Second, unlike the situation when Republicans were in the bare majority but had support of some key Democrats, today with Democrats having a nominal super majority, there are NO progressive Republicans assisting with their agenda.  About 40+ Democratic Senators and 200+ Democratic Congress Members are progressive.  Clearly the problem is that there are a sufficient number of corporatist Democrats who wield inordinate power.

Third, some members of Obama’s staff and cabinet are enthralled to the corporatists, but not all are; and he will move more progressive if we the people make him do so.

Fourth, this trend toward corporate control of the government has been going on for 30 years; we should not be so naïve to assume we can change the trend of the entire society in a few months or a year.

Finally,  because the mass media is corporate-owned, there is little support for facts and ideas that support progressive goals.  Today we have one major media outlet that is entirely devoted to the corporate agenda, Faux News.  This means we need to make changes in the media and maximize use of the internet for rational, fact-based, and effective political change.

Instead of throwing the entire Democratic Congress or Obama under the bus, we progressives should be:

  1. Boosting support for those Democrats and Independents like Bernie Sanders who stood with the people
  2. Identifying progressive Democrats to run against the corporatist Dems in the primaries and support those challengers
  3. Identifying progressive Democrats to run for the currently Republican seats of Congress and support them
  4. Maintaining the pressure on Obama to take progressive options and change his staff and cabinet to more progressives.  There’s a way of telling him what we want without demonizing him and tagging him with labels like “sellout.”  And
  5. Boosting progressive media of all kinds; maximize use of the internet.

To be sure, the corporatists really like to hear progressives attacking the Democrats or Obama and saying they’re not going to turn out and vote in 2010 or 2012, or advocating third parties, rallies in the street, “kill the bill,” etc.  The corporate banksters are well aware that the Republican Party has self-destructed.  Now they want to see the same happen to Democrats because the ONLY effective control on corporate power can be a government controlled by and beholding to the people.  They WANT to so fracture American society that the government can pose NO restraint upon them whatsoever.

I say resist the urge to fracture the Democratic Party and demonize Democrats.  Be smart.  Be effective.  Draw together progressives for effective action in the only political party that has a prayer of moving government in a more progressive direction. (It does take a major political party to get anything done.)  With Obama in the lead, Democrats already have budged the agenda a bit in these past 11 months; reinforcing that is our best hope of becoming the change we all seek.