Ben Boyce


Elections have consequences: mid-terms matter

Posted on April 3, 2014 by Ben Boyce

Electoral statistics wizard Nate Silver, who accurately predicted the outcomes of the 2008 and 2012 presidential and Congressional elections, published data on his site indicating that there is a strong chance that the Senate may flip to Republican control after the 2014 mid-term elections.  Due to the most aggressive and sophisticated redistricting ever engineered in American political history, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that in the 2014 mid-terms the House will remain in thrall to the 2010 class of obstructionist Tea Party Republicans.  Loss of both houses of Congress will ensure that the last two years of the Obama Administration will be one long, gut-wrenching nonstop manufactured political crisis, a depressing trench warfare scenario in which the presidential veto will be invoked as the tool of last resort repeatedly, setting the stage for the planned 2016 take-over of the White House as the country desperately seeks to make the political pain stop.

The net effect of this dismal outcome is that the tender shoot of the ‘hope and change’ popular upwelling that brought record numbers of young people, communities of color, and poor folks into the political process in 2008 will finally be strangled to death, slowly and painfully, leaving behind a residue of cynicism and political disengagement that will depress the civic engagement of an entire generation. Through a well-funded network of think tanks, a vast TV, radio and print media empire, and a plethora of newly minted 501c4 dark money issue-based organizations created after the ruinous Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, the newly politically assertive 1% are using their new powers of unlimited anonymous political contributions laundered through various front group shells to buy a government that will reliably do their bidding.  The outsize contributions of this small but wealthy and well-connected plutocracy are profoundly distorting the democratic process.

If you have the stomach for this exercise, just imagine what that would mean for the 2014-2016 Congressional cycle. Picture James Inhofe as chair of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  Keystone XL pipeline: done deal.  Alternative energy development investments: DOA.  The Affordable Care Act will be whittled down by a thousand cuts until they can elect Rand Paul or Jeb Bush to finally kill the bill, after 50 failed attempts at repeal in the House to date.  Women’s reproductive rights will be submitted to the social conservative Taliban wing of the Republican Party, who not only oppose the right to choose for a pregnant woman but are actually succeeding in rolling back access to contraceptive technology in the Red states where they currently hold super-majorities.  The economic policies of the Wall Street Republicans, as framed by Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, will ensure a prolonged recession for the middle class, further shredding of the social safety net, lower wages and diminished job security for the working class, and more privatization of our public schools and public lands.

The full effects of the Citizen’s United campaign finance laws, which has opened the floodgates to vast amounts of anonymous dark money, is already being felt by the unprecedented early ad buys by Super Pac conservative outside groups, like the Koch Brothers American for Prosperity.  We are now getting saturation ad bombs in swing districts well in advance of even the selection of the primary candidates on both sides.  We have entered a strange new world of the permanent ideological campaign funded by billionaires and multi-millionaires working through 501c4 “nonprofits” like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, the Alliance for America’s Future, and the Koch Brothers Americans for Prosperity.  There are attempts to catch up on the Democratic side, such as Priorities USA, but the ratio of spending is about 6:1 in favor of the Republican side of the ledger.

The ‘billionaire’s club’ super-donor class has a very different America in mind than most folks who live here in sunny Sonoma.  The American oligarchic class, in league with the global corporate banking network that makes the rules for the international financial system, are leading a plutocratic counter-revolution to reverse the social democratic gains of the great 20th century mass movements through dismantling the public sector social services infra-structure and privatizing publicly-held government assets and services.

America’s brief social experiment with a broadly-based middle class, which had a good run from the end of WWII until the mid-1970’s, is now reverting to the more historically typical economic order which concentrates most of the wealth in the upper 10 percent of the population, coupled with much higher levels of economic insecurity for the masses.  The rhetorical fiction that we call the “middle class” is steadily being pushed down into a less secure working class mode of life, while large elements of the working class are being shoved down into the mud of the underclass.  A permanent underclass of unemployed or under-employed inner city urban and isolated rural dwellers has been systematically economically marginalized, becoming a socially superfluous body of discontents kept in check by a draconian criminal justice “school to prison pipeline” enforced by a high-tech police state system.  That, my friends, is a more accurate analysis of the current structure of American society than you will hear on mainstream media.  On TV, we’re all rich, middle-class, or “striving.”

The key to ending this downward cycle of deepening wealth inequality, economic insecurity, and the deterioration of democratic institutions is for the diffuse and demoralized Democratic base to end the historical trend of showing up en masse for presidential year elections and then sitting out the mid-terms. The main focus for Democratic activists in 2014 is to mobilize the Obama base, so that he can actually govern in the last two years of his second term.  We want a government that works for all of us, not just serving the interests of the ‘billionaires club’ who want to buy our democracy with anonymous dark money.

Elections have consequences, and the 2014 mid-terms will determine whether we move forward towards a more progressive agenda or stay mired in bitter political stalemate.


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