Friday, November 07, 2014

Some thoughts on why Democrats lost ground in the mid-terms

There is a lot of analysis showing up on the internet about why the Democrats lost so much in the midterms just passed. Much of it is complex, resting on subjects like gerrymandering and voter turnout. But I think the kids that stayed home may have a point. When looking at the Democrats and Republicans, they may not see much difference between them.

Sure, on core issues, they may differ. But overall, I've seen a significant shift from left to right in the Democratic party over 30 years. If the Democrats keep moving right, as they have been, where is the alternative?

George Lakoff, in an article posted on Truthout, did a very good job of dissecting the differences between liberals and conservatives (although I must say he needs an editor). In a nutshell, conservatives say that people can prosper and be independent without the use of public resources, but that's not what they really do. They tend to privatize public resources and then call that "liberty". What's missing from "liberty" is compassion for your fellow man. Every man for himself right, Mr. Conservative?

Liberals acknowledge that they depend on public resources to prosper. But they also acknowledge compassion for their fellow man. They know that we're all in this together and that in order for all of us to prosper, we all must work together. Liberals know that a business cannot prosper without good roads, reliable power and other infrastructure. Infrastructure is a public resource and has to be else, the transaction costs will become prohibitive for commerce to function. Empathy is at the heart of liberal ideology. It is not even a consideration in the conservative ideology.

In the conservative ideology, you're on your own, bub.

Lakoff notes and confirms that Democrats have been moving right for a long time. Even Clinton was very conservative compared to say, Jimmy Carter. Democrats who identify with Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama need to understand that these two men are, in many respects, even more conservative than Richard Nixon was. That's how far right the Democratic Party has become.

So when young people view the landscape, they don't see any differences between the two dominant parties. Worse, they don't see an alternative that represents them. I believe that is why so many people didn't vote. Young people were, in my opinion, the crux of the election. Had they turned out to vote, we might have had very different results.

There are only a few people who even come close to the original ideal of a liberal. Two of them come to mind right now: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Both of them are senators. Consider for the moment what that means in terms of how they got elected. They stood on the issues, and they were firm. They represent the entire state, not a district drawn by a conservative legislature. Bernie has been in the Senate for more than one term and he runs as an independent.

Not only do liberals lack any meaningful choice in the elections they face, but the odds of electing one in the House are small since districts in most states are drawn by conservative legislatures. Most of the seats in the House are safe seats held by Republicans.

If we sincerely want to get people to the polls to vote, we need to offer meaningful choices, real differences between candidates and we need to eliminate the safe seats so that voters will know their vote really does count. For conservatives to claim victory on low turnouts, it's a hollow victory indeed.
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