by Dan from Nevada
Youthful enthusiasm is like young people, often late to the party. After Barack Obama’s historic 2008 victory, Democrats celebrated — and then went to sleep for four years. Then in 2012, they awoke briefly and Obama won again. Then Democrats went to sleep yet again for another four years. Now they are waking up to a country that has moved to the far right, and they are begging us to consider Bernie Sanders while lamenting the “establishment” candidate, Hillary Clinton, who they consider too conservative. Some of them might not even vote this time if she is the Democratic nominee. Are you freaking kidding me?!?
Barack Obama had a vision for America. He implemented everything he could in 2009 and 2010, and then he had to improvise the rest of his time in office. He focused so much on health care during those first two years that he left a lot of other issues on the table for future years. But after taking heavy losses in the 2010 elections (when many Democrats were asleep — great job, guys!), most of those issues remain unresolved. He never closed Guantanamo Bay, he never addressed basic gun control laws (the laws that even majorities of gun owners agree on), and he never addressed immigration reform. He had to fend off multiple government shut downs and Republican threats to default on our nation’s debt. He never addressed government spending being out of control because he couldn’t sit down and develop a comprehensive plan with the “we want Obama to fail” Congress.
This isn’t the Republicans fault. They are simply right wing a-holes; it’s in their nature to be disruptive. They are like the villains in a Bond film; they just want world domination and James Bond is in their way, so they try some elaborate way to kill him, and they keep failing because they are out of touch with reality. When your dog tries to eat poop left on the road; you let him know that isn’t acceptable behavior, and if he does it again, he won’t get to lick your face.
That’s what we have to do with Republicans. They are throwing us dog-s*** ideas and dog-s*** laws, and we have to respond by voting for somebody else.
But what happens when we don’t vote? What happens when we decide that our integrity disallows us from voting for Democratic candidates who aren’t “pure” enough, who don’t believe in every single thing we believe in? Sure, we like the idea of having other political parties besides Ds and Rs, and we talk about getting rid of the two-party system, but despite all the talk the system doesn’t change. We still get Democrats and Republicans. And one of the biggest criticisms of Democrats is that they compromise with Republicans. But if there were fewer elected Republicans, Democrats could pass far more progressive legislation. Fortunately, Democrats can be pushed to adopt more progressive policies, even if they get a campaign check from a big Wall Street bank or an oil company now and then.
What is the alternative? We’ve seen it. Government shutdowns, demands for less regulation of the banks and the fossil fuel industry. Then we get someone like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who actually knew that one of his state’s largest (and poorest) cities was getting potentially unsafe drinking water and he didn’t do anything about it until it became a national outrage.
We used to vote people out of office for being uncaring, socially inept, and crooked. Now we just throw up our hands and act like it’s just part of the system.
We need to vote for candidates who will oppose these right-wing Republicans, or we will have to deal with the extreme laws they pass. To date, the results of going to sleep between presidential elections have been tragic. Police departments militarized. Mandatory arbitration clauses standardized. Women’s health care and reproductive rights limited. Our history textbooks bastardized. Abstinence-only education imposed. Unemployment benefits reduced. Wages stagnated. These are the kind of policies we get when we decide to stay home from the voting booth.
In 2010 after averting a financial crisis caused by Republican policies and Republican lawmakers neglecting to deal with pressing problems (like the housing bubble), President Obama was rewarded for his efforts by Democrats losing the U.S. House of Representatives in a landslide, along with numerous state legislative seats. In 2012, Obama won reelection, but the Democratic Party failed to recoup its massive losses in 2010. As if that all isn’t bad enough, 2014 – another midterm election year – was an unmitigated disaster for the Democratic Party as well.
Now after 7 years of economic growth, reduced unemployment, and increasing prosperity, President Obama is lambasted for doing a poor job, and for taking the country in the wrong direction. This is the same guy who, as a Presidential candidate, was absurdly attacked because his policies were supposedly going to lead to astronomical increases in oil prices and limited production of oil while sending our markets into disarray from overregulation. In 2008, the U.S. produced 5 million barrels of oil a day. Now it’s 9 million barrels a day. Oil prices were above $140 a barrel during the summer of 2008, now they’re under $30 a barrel. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined to below 7,000 points at the peak of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. It went to above 18,000 points last year, and continues to be strong despite recent declines. So much for all those predictions about doom under President Obama.
All this success, yet according to Politifact, “Democrats during Obama’s presidency lost 11 governorships, 13 U.S. Senate seats, 69 House seats, and 913 state legislative seats and 30 state legislative chambers.” But it gets worse: Democrats also lost county officials, mayors, local city council members, public utility commissioners, judges, school board members, and sheriffs.
One of the saddest examples of this trend has been the failure of the Black Lives Matter movement – despite heroic efforts to do so – to garner support for candidates dedicated to changing the trajectory. The events in Ferguson, Missouri during the summer and fall of 2014 raised awareness of not just police brutality, but also government corruption in the way police used small traffic violations as a way to fund their local government at the expense of their poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
Yet when the 2014 elections took place, Republicans somehow managed to demonize the Black Lives Matter movement in order to scare (white) people into voting Republican. The exposure of a vast national trend of the mistreatment of poor people and even the execution of unarmed minorities, and the mostly peaceful protests aimed at raising awareness of this trend, was actually used against Democrats. Apparently, the Republicans’ racist “Southern Strategy” of Richard Nixon and Lee Atwater still works today, decades after it was first developed.
And who among the Democratic Party suggested that a way to address the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement was through the voting booth, first and foremost at the local and state levels? After all, voting is the best way to create change in a democracy.
We as Democrats need to come to the realization that a major problem with America today is that a minority of (angry) people who hold (far-right) ideological views are voting for the candidates who now, incredibly, make up a majority of elected offices.
Fantasizing about adopting the policies of Denmark or Finland or some other country that is much smaller, more homogeneous, healthier, and more educated than we are is counterproductive. We have a candidate we can get behind. Hillary Clinton isn’t the lesser of two evils. She’s the smartest person in the room. She isn’t perfect, but she’s malleable — she can be moved towards the left. Republicans are intractable. They won’t move, even if reams of evidence to the contrary (e.g., on climate science) exist. Even if 90% of the electorate wants something like universal background checks, or increases in the minimum wage, Republicans look into the eyes of the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson, and they have to say no.
No more pouting. Let’s vote for people who can pass laws that will move the country forward into the 21st Century. And if you elect Democrats and they aren’t responding to your concerns, then call their offices and request they vote for issues you find important. At least they’ll listen. Republicans already decided how they are going to vote, regardless of facts, reality, or evidence; if in any doubt, they just check with their wealthy and big corporate donors and ask them what they should do.
This election isn’t about Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio. It isn’t even about Mitch McConnell, or Paul Ryan. It starts with your members of the General Assembly, your County Board or City Council member. All politics starts in your backyard. To paraphrase the slogan of this blog, what you need to do is clear and simple: “think globally, act locally.” Get involved, not just every four years but EVERY year, and of course exercise your precious right to vote every time you can — not just in presidential years. In the end, that’s the only realistic way we’re going to get the “revolution” we want in this country.