|A No-Wave Election in No-Democracy America by Steve Jonas|
November 11, 2014
Every other political commentator, along with their sisters and their brothers and their cousins and their aunts (to quote W.S. Gilbert in H.M.S. Pinafore) is commenting on them, so why, I thought, not me too. So, not in any particular order of importance, here goes.
Let’s start with a comment on the observation of Frank Rich, with whom, more often than not, I find myself in agreement, that a “Dispirited America Votes for Change, Gives Up on Hope." Well, no. Actually, unless one counts those people who didn’t vote as “voting,” (and, of course, in a way they did; it’s just that those sorts of votes don’t get counted), America did not vote for change. Turnout was the lowest since the 1942 mid-term (one year after the start of WWII, of course). About 37% of the eligibles voted. In terms of turnout, the GOP strategy of voter suppression combined with Obama-demonization with no effective counter-attack from the Obamaites, worked to perfection, for them.
Which brings us next to the Republicans’ Grand Plan, which indeed also worked to perfection, on a grander scale. It began back in 1992 with the hatching by the Republican political ally, the Christian Coalition, of something they called The 15% Solution. (I wrote a book with that title, on the theme of what the GOP/Religious Right would do if they were ever to attain significant power in US government. The 15% Solution itself is to be found on p. 17 of that book). It was a strategy designed to lower voting participation, down to a level where the loyal rightist “15%” could win elections, all by themselves. As Paul Weyrich, one of the creators of the Republican Religious Right Alliance, famously said: “We don’t want everyone to vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population goes down,” (see p. 18 of The 15% Solution).
And so came the national Republican Voter Suppression Campaign, led by Fox News on the theme of fighting the statistically non-existent problem of “voter fraud.” As is well known, it is aimed specifically at the population groups which generally vote Democratic, if they vote at all. Funnily enough our side spent all of its time trying to expose the Campaign for what it really was, which of course got nowhere. What should have been done, in my view, was to say:
We absolutely agree with you. Every voter should have a voter ID, which of course would then have other uses beyond voting. And so, since we are the greatest democracy on Earth (at least folks like Sarah Palin keep telling us that), we should want every single Person to vote. To facilitate that each state should set up a vast series of voter ID offices, where at no charge (for we do want to encourage voting, don’t we) every legible person could get a voter ID, with photo, at no charge. What? You’re not doing this? Please do tell us, why not?”Then along with voter suppression came gerrymandering, for which the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) began planning in 2008 leading up to the state legislature elections heading into re-districting in 2011. The third piece of the Republican puzzle was the demonization of and non-cooperation with President Obama from the moment he took office. Thom Hartman has summed up the strategy, well-known from the time it was put together in 2009, in a fine post-election piece entitled, “Dems Duped by the Caucus Room Conspiracy." So once again, the Republicans had a long-range strategy on the political side, and it too worked to perfection this year. It would, of course, have worked in 2012 for the Presidency if they had run a half-way decent candidate. But they didn’t. I believe that they will in 2016. JEB Bush, anyone?
Which brings us to what the Democrats did wrong. First of all, there is no “The Democrats.” There are folks who vote Democratic because they think that the elected Democratic Party will DO something about the major problems facing the country, from fixing the health care system to renewing the desperately outdated infrastructure, to regulating the economy, to installing a fair taxation system that would also raise the funds the national desperately needs to be spent on a host of projects and problems, to education, to the environment and climate change, and etc. Or they would vote for Democrats if they trusted that they would do such things.
And then there is the electoral Democratic Party, which for a variety of reasons, since the Clinton/DLC years has paid as little attention to this list as they can get away with. For example, Gov. Malloy of Connecticut was re-elected running on what some trumpeted as “the progressive agenda.” It consisted of raising the minimum wage and requiring paid sick leave at some level of employment. Wow! If that’s a “progressive agenda,” no wonder so many people stayed home. President Obama’s Presidency can be best characterized as much talk, not much action on the major domestic issues, while he has pursued a generally US imperialist foreign policy, just not quite so loudly as the Republicans do (e.g., Libya, Syria, Ukraine, the original Afghanistan “surge,” Central Africa, Venezuela, drones all over the place). And so, if you don’t have too much to vote for, why vote?
Finally, for this essay, what about the old saw about “why do those people (that is working and middle-class folk) who vote Republican vote against their own best self-interest?” Well, that’s an example of our side defining what the voters who vote for their side define as their “best self-interest.” It simply is not ours, in terms, for example, of the major national problem list laid out above. That’s why they don’t vote for that list. For many Republican voters, quite obviously dealing with the economy for the benefit of everyone is not at the top of their list, and may not even be anywhere on the list. For if it were, seeing what Reaganite economic policy, under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, has done to the country over the last 35 years, they would not only not vote Republican, they would vote Progressive Democratic (if such a party ever were to appear).
But for many Republican voters, those are not the issues that they are most concerned about, and the Republican Party knows it. So for many Republican voters, other than the standard economic-policy reactionaries, at the top of their list of what is in their own best self-interest are indeed: no gun control, homophobia as national policy, religious determinism in such matters as abortion rights, and of course underneath it all, racism . And etc., along these lines.
It thus should be no mystery that, as Andy Borowitz predicted: “Billionaires to Retain Control of Government." They, and their party, do know how to run campaigns, as they make a joke out of what used to be some semblance of democracy (within limits, to be sure) in the United States.