Thursday, October 28, 2010

Some Midterm Election Thoughts

Like many people I will be glad when next Tuesday, November 2 comes just so I won’t have to watch all the annoying, disinforming political ads and won’t be getting the robo-calls for this or that candidate. However, as we come to these midterm elections I do have a few random thoughts.

The anti-Washington Rhetoric
Have you noticed how many candidates are “campaigning against Washington?” It strikes me as very strange that there are so many people working so hard to get to a place they are so critical of. In this scenario Republicans have the edge, but if Washington is such a terrible place, why are they spending so much time, energy and money to get there? I realize that this is just a marketing strategy, but the people who advise candidates need to get more creative. I am sure there is a significant percentage of voters who will go along with the anti-Washington rhetoric, but really candidates, could you please come up with some sort of clear idea of what you will do when you go to Washington because 2 or 4 or 6 years from now, someone will be calling you a "Washington insider."

The Myth of the Political “Race”
Nearly every night for the last 3 months or more, we have been hearing about how the respective candidates are doing in their “race’ against each other. Emails tout that one is pulling ahead or closing the gap. If I didn’t know any better, one would think that the candidates were involved in some sort of cross-country marathon. The fact is on November 2, we show up, we vote, the count is taken and the winner is announced. It’s a singular event in a singular day, not a marathon (except for those of us listening to the reports).

The myth of “the race” is created by the media to bring drama to an otherwise singular event. It keeps them from using their news time to actually give us information on the candidates’ experience, their past actions and their stated positions. Instead of giving us information that can help us evaluate the ads that barrage us, they report on the ads themselves – how nasty they were and how much they cost. They run endless polls trying to determine who is voting, and what they are finding is that a huge percentage don’t know or aren’t telling. When they day comes, they will vote.

There is no “race” – that’s another media create illusion. Instead of getting us caught up in a mythical drama, how about taking time each night to share the fruits of an analysis and investigation of where candidates stand, and what they have done in the past; the drama will be in informed voters voting intelligently rather than emotionally.

My Thoughts on the Democrats
The other evening I received a call from the Democratic party (not for my specific candidate) but the party as a whole. Two years ago I gave money to Obama’s campaign and they wanted to know if I could help them out again. When I declined, the caller asked “Is it for political reasons?” and I replied “No, I am still voting Democrat.” The call quickly ended, but afterwards I wish I had said more.

This is what I wished I had said (and will, if some poor unsuspecting volunteer from the DNC calls me again.).

 “I am voting Democrat not because I am so enamored with the Democratic party; in fact I am profoundly disappointed. With a 60% majority in the Senate, a significant majority in the House, and a President with progressive ideas, the Democrats blew it. They could not pass a Health Care bill that really provided coverage for the most vulnerable; could not bring significant reform to the way Wall Street operates; wimped out when the President proposed to raise taxes on the wealthy Americans; and got us more deeply entrenched in a pointless, unwinnaable war in Afgahnistan. They were as easily persuaded my lobbyists’ money as their Republican counterparts, and when it came time to push thru some important legislation, time and time again, they had no spine. Many blame Obama for the sluggish economy, but I blame the bank and corporate executives who were able to get bail out money and gave themselves bonuses, while holding back on hiring folks and foreclosing homes; I blame the lobbyists from the insurance, bank and financial institutions who poured record numbers of dollars into the pockets of leaders on both sides of the aisle, so that they would shout and holler and do nothing to change the system as it is; and I blame the Democrats in Congress who did not back Obama when he tried to stand up to them.  When Obama’s party needed him, they wimped out. They aren’t a party with any clear agenda or principles, they are simply a fund-raising machine.

“Now you, DNC, call me asking for money with all sorts of scary scenarios about what the Republicans will do. I am sincerely concerned about the polarity amongst our political leaders. I am concerned about the “take back America” language coming from political conservatives; that can only mean even worse times for the poor, the immigrant, the person of color, and the marginalized in our society. I am concerned about the mean-spirit I hear in the Tea Party rhetoric of God, guns and patriotism. Yes, I am scared, so I will vote.

“But give you money, so you can put attack ads that distort the record and do nothing to inform the public of what a candidate actually said, did or believes? Not going to happen.

“Go and make some significant campaign finance reform. Reverse the Supreme Court decision that made it possible for corporations to give as much in campaign contributions as they want, with no stipulations. Take the money you are raising to improve inner city schools, or provide housing for people losing their homes or making health care accessible to all or putting real gun-control legislation in place; instead of those annoying adsa. But to support the kind of disinforming drivel that I have been watching for that last several months?

No, I don’t think so – so have a nice day.”

Real Democracy

I have long ago taken a cynical perspective on electoral politics (I know its not that obvious!), but I still believe in democracy; not the game that goes on in Washington, but real people getting together at the grassroots community level to make decisions about the health and welfare of their community. As I have said before what goes on in “the halls of government” is not democracy, but plutocracy (the rule of the rich). In order to get and stay elected a person must have or have access to a lot of money. A man or woman with leadership abilities and great ideas, but no money, is unelectable. However, at the grassroots level people can come together to make a difference.

When I was living in southern Minnesota in the late 1980’s I participated in the caucus system where residents came together to discuss issues and vote for the primary candidate of their choice. Then representatives of that local group went to the regional meeting which did the same thing, and then went on to the state. Those meetings were filled with impassioned, substantive political debate and while we did not always get our way, we were informed and our voice was heard

I have worked with a church in West Philadelphia that helped organize its community and got the city to board up or tear down dozens of abandoned buildings, and is now in the process of negotiating to get affordable housing for the people of that community. When a young man was beaten up by police officer, they called the residents together and had the police and city come and hear their concerns. I have also sat with residents at a local high school debating and discussing what they want for their kids and how they want their school to be run; again this was meaningful, substantive democracy in action.

Regardless of what happens on November 2, the real democratic process will continue, and we will tolerate the games that go on among the plutocrats who like to think of themselves our leaders. I still believe in Barack Obama and his agenda. I share his community organizing spirit, but he needs help; so in the mean time I will put my energies into real democracy at the grassroots level.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Drick. You articulate very well many of my feelings too.

It frustrates me that the media runs campaign ads with ominous music, rather than giving us useful information.

Sherri Michalovic

Anonymous said...

Thanks Drick for your thoughts. While we may not agree on everything, I do agree in your thoughts about the process and how distorted and wrong it is and how change can still happen. Tucker