10 December 2014: Lessons from the 2014 election

Lessons from 2014 election

It’s been a month since the 2014 elections, and the post-mortems have been written ad infinitum.  I promise to be brief with regard to it.

We learned or re-learned several lessons.  One is that Republicans consistently vote in off-year cycles and Democrats do not.  Another is that negativity is an effective strategy for the most part, which reinforces the notion that voting for many is an emotional activity rather than rational.  Anger overrules reason.  Finally, the conservative crusade to convince the courts money equals free speech has worked, tragically for the republic.

Frustrating to be sure, but the challenge before us is to change that culture before the 2016 election, to inculcate into the minds of every American that voting is not just one’s civic duty, but one’s patriotic duty.  Those who argue they don’t vote because it’s an exercise of choosing between the lesser of two evils both have a point but also are skating.  They could, of course, submit a blank ballot.  On the other hand, there’s merit to the idea of adding the line “none of the above” for each office, and if that line “wins,” the office remains open until a new election is held.

With regard to the negative ads, perhaps a public campaign that encourages everyone to sign an online pledge not to watch negative ads might work.  There’s a glimmer of hope in that Gov. Hickenlooper assiduously adhered to his pledge not to run negative ads and he won.  Overall though, the rule of thumb is attack, not present.

In my quick research, I’ve found sites on which candidates pledge not to run them, but it’s the voters who would make the real difference.  It would be equivalent to changing the societal acceptance of smoking.

Finally, it’s time to “throw the bums out,” the bums being the Supreme Court justices who voted to enshrine Citizens United into law, which has opened the floodgates of obscene amounts of money, much of it “dark,” into campaigns.  That is the soft underbelly of our republic, which continues its slide into a plutocracy.  A constitutional amendment that defines tenure—10 years—for Supreme Court justices is long past due.

Democratic candidates that distanced themselves from Obama during their campaigns, including Mark Udall, paid the price.  In so doing, they played into the Republican narrative that Obama has been a failure instead of being a successful president.  It has been Barack Obama, after all, whose policies saved us from a Great Depression II.

It has been Obama who overseen the restoration of the faith and credit of the federal government after the credit-card binge George W. Bush went on when he cut taxes for the uber-wealthy and launched two unfunded wars.

It has been Obama who has forever changed the conversation about health care and how it’s paid for.  By labeling the Affordable Care Act as a “redistribution” effort, Republicans have been moderately successful in striking fear into middle class voters.  Nevertheless, while the AFA is in need of fixes, overall it has been a positive imitative as argued by national columnist Froma Harrop.

“Anytime you help people obtain benefits they couldn’t afford before,” she writes, “money is going to move.  There is distribution all around us, in Social Security, in Medicare, in farm subsidies, in the tax code.”

The tax write-offs include, of course, the ones large corporations, especially the fossil fuel producers, enjoy.

“The health reforms redistribute a lot more than money,” Harrop argues.  “They expand peace of mind and freedom to start a business.  Knowing that an insurer can’t drop your family when a member gets ill is priceless.”

The AFA is being credited with finally curbing the rise in health care spending, she notes.

“The AFA is not some distraction in the quest for more jobs and pay.  It’s an economy less burdened by a bankrupting health care system.”

Having said all that in praise of the president, it still remains that this economy is not a boon for the bottom 90 percent, the ones who don’t own stock and make investments and also need to work two to three jobs to support themselves and their families.

As I told two good liberal friends who were grappling with understanding the 2014 Republican wave, “Take the minimum wage, double it, multiply it by 40 and then 52 and try to live off it.  Voters are angry, thus not being rational.”

What those voters don’t understand is that the problem is institutional.  Capitalism is not kind to its serfs.

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