Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What Went Wrong for Democrats

There's no way to avoid the obvious: the mid-term elections were devastating for Democrats. The rare bright spot was Michigan voters rejecting the hopelessly inept Terri Lynn Land and sending Gary Peters, a solid legislator, to replace Carl Levin in the United States Senate. Peters (56 years old) and Debbie Stabenow (64) give Michigan Democrats a strong hold on those seats for probably at least a decade. Another bright spot was the election of the ebullient Richard Bernstein to the Michigan Supreme Court (thanks in good part to his family's multi-zillion-dollar advertising).
But Michigan voters also rewarded ideological partisan hacks like Mike Bishop and Bill Schuette instead of electing truly quality candidates who would have been solid public servants, Eric Schertzing and Mark Totten.
The reality for Michigan Democrats: gerrymandering, the assaults on labor unions and uneven campaign fundraising spell trouble and frustration many, many years.

What went wrong? Lots of things.

Running Away from Success

The Obama administration will go down in history as one of tremendous accomplishments:
  • pulling the nation out of the Great (Bush) Recession
  • expanding healthcare coverage to, initially, an additional 10-million Americans
  • enacting at least some reforms to rein in the rapacious greed of Wall Street
  • more than five years of month-to-month, non-stop jobs growth
  • shrinking unemployment
  • cutting taxes
  • cutting the deficit by more than half
  • consistently low inflation
  • record stock prices, with the DJI average more than doubling
  • record corporate earnings
  • major steps towards energy independence
  • significantly lower energy prices
  • advances in building a green-energy industry
  • advances in civil rights for the LGBTQ population
Yet Democrats chose to cave in to the unrelenting GOP drumbeat of vitriol and mistruths heaped on the President. They ran away from his successes because they didn't have the balls to stand up for what we thought they believed.
Republicans decided on January 20, 2009 that they would oppose Obama on everything regardless of what that meant for the nation. They attacked his right to be President, his religion, his wife's clothing, his work ethic (remember - this is the party of vacation-happy Presidents St. Ronnie of Hollywood and 'W'), his enjoyment of golf (a sport enjoyed by many presidents). They were organized in their attacks, stayed on message even when the message was total bullshit, and never wavered from their hatred of anything Obama.
Democrats refused to play offense, and got tired of playing defense. So they relented and joined the anti-Obama chorus in an effort to save their own political asses.
2014 became a campaign between the party that hated Obama, and the party that was ashamed of Obama. I, for one, am glad Mary Landrieu will likely lose, and that Alison Lundergan Grimes was demolished by The Turtle. They pandered to their electorate by pretending they were Republicans on core issues, and ran away from the President. Grimes wouldn't even admit she voted for the President. Many other alleged Democrats did the same thing.
In contrast Gary Peters stood with President Obama, bragging about his support of Obamacare and openly opposing the environmentally reckless Keystone Pipeline. Gary Peters won, and deserved it, because he was a Democrat who ran as a Democrat ... not a closet Republican.

You Can't Help Those Who Won't Help Themselves

One thing we are learning in Iraq; if the people being hurt the most won't defend themselves, you can't do it for them. Iraq is being overrun by ISIL in large part because the Iraqi army, trained and armed at huge expense to the American taxpayer, refuses to fight. That isn't Obama's fault. It is a failing of the Iraqi people and government.
Democrats can't help the people we care about – the undereducated, the poor, blue-collar workers, young people – if they won't get off their asses and at least vote. Despite the valiant efforts of Lon Johnson and the Democratic party, they sat on their asses AGAIN in this election. The unofficial Michigan voter turnout for the mid-terms was around 3.2-million voters, or 1.5-million FEWER voters than in 2012. Election analysis will undoubtedly show that the bulk of the dropoff was among people who will now suffer mightily with an even more tea-party-dominated Legislature and a Governor who thinks trickle-down economics actually works.

Making Up Crap is Effective

Republicans nationwide instilled fear of Obama in voters by inventing a domestic Ebola crisis when, in fact, there is no crisis. Exactly one person in the entire freaking nation is being treated for Ebola. Not one American has died of Ebola. The only Americans who have caught Ebola in this nation are a couple of nurses who working directly with an Ebola patient. Not even that patient's relatives, who shared an apartment with him, became infected.
Aided by the hyper-alarmist "liberal" media, Republicans ginned up a huge crisis to again attack the President to hurt his party politically. They ignored the experts by demanding a ban on travel from west Africa to the United States; several of their Governors imposed draconian imprisonment on people who weren't ill or symptomatic (and even people who tested negative for the virus); they attacked the President for not leading when, in fact, he lead with a steady hand and was actually successful (if you consider no cases of Ebola a success).
It isn't the first made-up crisis or scandal. Republicans didn't give a shit when Reagan illegal shipped arms and money to Nicaraguans in direct violation of a law signed by St. Ronnie himself. They didn't spend a minute caring about why the GW Bush administration was asleep at the switch and 4,000 people died on 9-11. They didn't raise an eyebrow when diplomatic facilities around the world were attacked during the GWB and Ronnie years. But they've had two years of hearings investigating Benghazi, making up crap and generally ignoring facts to create political point.
They did it because it works. Most of the media are lapdogs, and the general population reacts mostly to fear -- fear of Ebola, fear of ISIS, fear of black/brown people, fear that somebody else is getting something for nothing.
At the state level many candidates were called out by the Michigan Truth Squad and other media watchdogs for lies, half-truths and deceptions. It didn't matter. TV stations will run any ad that is attached to a check regardless of its truth, Republicans wrote big checks, and the day-to-day media coverage (as usual) focused on the horse races rather than the issues or lack of same.
And we'll never know the real story of why the Detroit Free Press endorsed Rick Snyder in an editorial which explained why he's been a bad governor, why mLive gave Snyder partisans free column space in the days just prior to the election, or a newspaper ostensibly written for an African-American audience endorsed a Governor who has suspended democratic rule in multiple minority-dominated cities across Michigan. 
One suspects that corporate balance sheets had something to do with those decisions.

Republicans Have Rigged Elections for Years to Come

Gerrymandering. Voter suppression. We don't live in a representative democracy anymore. We live in a pseudo-democracy with rules made by the ruling class to maintain their ruling status. I haven't run the numbers year, but am certain that the total vote for Republicans for Congress and the Legislature in Michigan is a smaller percentage (by far) than the numbers of Republicans elected to Congress and the Legislature. (More on the gerrymandering later this week.)
And the voter suppression efforts in some states was immoral, depriving millions of their right to vote based on totally made-up stories of "voter fraud". Michigan's toothless Voter ID law (you don't need an ID to vote, even though most people think you do) likely discouraged thousands from voting because they didn't have a picture ID. But, to its credit, Michigan's voter suppression efforts pale in comparison to what happened in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.

Money

There's way too much spent on television attack ads that have turned elections into high-price cage matches. The candidate damaged less by the attack ads wins. The candidate with more money generally wins the ad wars. So the winners aren't about to change the rules because they like winning more than anything.
But after they are elected, they are damaged to the point where about all they can do is start raising money and campaigning for reelection. It is part of the formula for gridlock and lack of long-term vision in government.

Bitter?

No, not bitter. Just angry. Our democracy is no longer. We have become a plutocracy where the masses are being deluded into thinking that billionaires and their political stooges actually care about the rest of us. 
Rick Snyder is a plutocrat. Like the rest of them, he doesn't consider us "voters" or "citizens." We are "customers" who have to be convinced to buy what he (and his ilk) are selling, so they can take home the profits and we can be grateful they allow us to share their planet (a little).
And we're falling for it.
Elections have consequences. Not voting has consequences. Not caring has consequences. And not paying attention to what they are really doing to us has consequences.
Welcome to the New World Order: money is speech, corporations are people, and the rest of us are chattel.

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