It is obvious from the recent mid-term elections that the Democratic Party nation-wide is in crisis. The corporate media states that the Democratic Party must become more “centrist,” meaning that the Democratic Party needs to be more like the Republicans. The liberal publications on the other hand, perform an elaborate contortion act of an analysis blaming everyone from the Republicans to “ignorant voters.” In both cases, neither wants to talk about the real cause of the Democratic Party’s defeats.
Confusing Message from the Voters
Yes, the Republicans kept their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, obtained control of the U.S. Senate, and elected several new Republican Governors, but what about the voter referendums that passed? Referendums to raise the minimum wage passed in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois and parts of Wisconsin, as well as in the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, California.
In addition to the above referendum results, a survey of voters on election day, conducted by the HART Research Group, found that 62% favored raising taxes on the wealthy, 75% favored increasing funding for education from preschool to college, 69% opposed financial deregulation, 82% opposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare, and 83% opposed cutting Medicaid or social security benefits.
So how can it be possible that Republicans won so many elections when they are opposed to all of these issues and referendums that a majority of Americans support?
Corporate Influence vs. the People
Since the Presidency of Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party in general has become more concerned with corporate campaign contributors than with the well-being of the average American. Many of the policies that Bill Clinton and the Democratic National Committee promoted, and passed into law in partnership with the Republican Party, has slowly but systematically lowered the standard of living of working people and increased income inequality. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) alone has resulted in the loss of over one million U.S. manufacturing jobs that paid union wage rates and caused a 20% decline in overall U.S. manufacturing wages. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, that restricted the affiliation of commercial banks with investment security firms, was also supported by Bill Clinton and many Democrats and is considered the main cause of the 2008 financial crisis.
Following the Clinton administration and the eight disastrous years of the George W. Bush presidency, Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008, swept into office on promises of “Hope and Change” with an unprecedented level of voter registration and turn-out, even winning Republican states in the South like Virginia and North Carolina. Two years earlier, the Democrats had also taken control of the U.S. House and Senate. From January 2009 until January 2011, the Democrats had control of all three branches of government, but nothing changed for the better.
The same corporate-friendly policies of the Bush and Clinton years were not just continued but expanded, to the detriment of working Americans.
Fast Forward to 2014
By 2014 overall unemployment was lower as a result of an expansion of jobs, but these jobs were mostly low-wage service sector jobs with no benefits, and overall wages were stagnating for most workers. In addition, attempted theft of public sector workers’ pensions had increased in states nation-wide, not only by Republican governors but Democratic governors as well, like Jerry Brown in California and Pat Quinn in Illinois.
The 2014 mid-term election season began with concerns by many Democratic senators that the unpopular Affordable Care Act (a health care law written by Liz Fowler and the corporate health insurance industry) was going to hurt their prospects for re-election. Later into the campaign, Republicans began to attack certain Democratic U.S. House and Senate candidates for their support of the Obama-appointed Simpson-Bowles Social Security and Medicare cuts committee―policies that the Republicans of course supported as well, but were now using as a weapon against the Democrats. This was used with particular effectiveness against incumbent North Carolina Democratic senator Kay Hagan, a multimillionaire banker who supported Simpson-Bowles.
In this recent 2014 election, 64% of eligible voters stayed home. Of the 36% who did vote, many abstained from voting for either Democratic or Republican candidates in certain races or voted for a Republican in order to punish the Democratic incumbent. Among voters surveyed by pollsters, 87% said that the economy was the number one reason for voting for whom they did, and that their wages were flat or falling.
Since 2008, 5.5 million more Americans live in poverty, the median household income has declined by almost 5 %, but corporate profits are at their highest rate ever and the effective corporate tax rate is at its lowest since 1929.
The Republican election victories do not represent a shift of the American voters to the right, but it do represent the failure of the Democratic Party to affect real change for the better for working Americans. People are frightened and angry but they see few if any ways of changing things for the better.
What Will it Take to Turn Things Around?
Elections alone will not create systemic change, and blindly voting for someone just because of their party affiliation has not been working. In this Orwellian age of corporate media doublespeak and superficiality, we cannot support any candidate who accepts corporate money. And in addition, we should only support candidates who have proven themselves to be worthy of our vote and support.
In Illinois, two Democratic Party candidates for state representative bucked the national trend of Democratic Party defeat: Carol Ammons, an African American community activist from Urbana, and Will Guzzardi, a community activist from Chicago. Both not only won their elections as first time candidates, but also inspired a significant number of people to register to vote and to turn out on election day. Both candidates ran grassroots campaigns with little money during the primary election against well-funded candidates who had the backing of corporate interests and the state Democratic Party. Both candidates were also the victims of vicious and slanderous personal attacks. Both candidates were successful because they were known in their respective communities as fighters for economic and social justice for many years before their decisions to run for elected office.
It will be candidates like Carol Ammons and Will Guzzardi, regardless if they run as Democrats, Greens, Socialists, or whatever, that will begin to make the difference. But this is only if we support them and not believe the lies and fear mongering that is waged to keep the corporate special interests in control and the rest of us effectively disenfranchised.