Saturday, November 6, 2010

American Narratives -- Updated with bonus Bill Maher video!

The mid-term US elections have come and gone and while the Republicans managed to take the House in what Obama called a "shellacking," they failed to take control of the Senate chamber. There was another massive sea-change that took place this election cycle  that the media will not talk about at length and it's important. It's all about shadowy corporate money that was poured into advertising campaigns and turned what otherwise would have been an appropriate expression of dissatisfaction over what are very high unemployment numbers into a debacle so far as seats in the House are concerned. What concerns me most here is where all the money went, the likely effect it had on voters, and how the narrative coming out of Tuesday night would have otherwise been very different. Plus, there's also the risk that this will not only repeat itself during the coming election cycles, but actually get much worse as long as the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United remains in place.

 It's remarkable that in all this is that the Dems managed to keep control of the Senate, but as has been noted all over the blogosphere there's reason to thank some of the crazier tea party candidates for that little blessing. I kind of thought all along that given the stark choice between voting for crazy or Dems the electorate were pissed off at, that the voters would reluctantly choose Dems. Turns out in House races where the scrutiny of candidates is not the same as it is for Senate and Gubernatorial races that didn't happen at all. And there were some pretty crazy people elected Tuesday night.

So now the narrative is all about how much the Democrats have to change before 2012. In the media the narrative is being shaped with the help of a compliant media that's saying Obama has to compromise and be more centrist -- this even though there's ample evidence that he's compromised and reached across the aisle plenty but to no avail because the Republicans are only interested in defeating him. He is a threat to them and no matter how many of their policies he embraces they will not work with him. On the left the narrative is completely different and resentful towards him but it's because he tried to compromise with them. It's because he's tried to be a moderate. They want him to defend traditional Democratic principles uncompromisingly. Witness the following rant for The Young Turks Cenk Uygur about getting rid of non-progressives from the Democratic Party:



I agree with a lot of what he has to say here, but not all. The system is corrupt and like him I'm tired of pretend progressives: people happily willing to sell out liberal ideals for some of the same corporate money that buys conservative's votes. But I don't believe the Democrats are there to be the Washington Generals -- in fact without that corporate spending the American political  landscape might look extremely different this morning, particularly in the Senate.

The money spent by the US Chamber of Commerce is catalogued over at Think Progress and shows how things could have very different. Look at the $10.5 million the Chamber used to target 7 US Senate races. And that's just the Chamber -- there was more outside spending in all those races from corporate donors on behalf of Republicans. You begin to see how some very tight races were turned on an unending stream of attack ads. Karoli over at C&L says she received 300 pieces of attack mail in the final two weeks of the campaign. So far as getting what they want from government, for corporate America and spending, the sky's the limit!

Imagine if you can what the narratives might be coming out of Tuesday's elections if the Dems had retained 4 or 5 of those Senate seats. It's not that unlikely when you consider the quality of candidates that lost in those particular races. When you add to that some of the targeted House races by the Chamber from that same list where there are 15 races where between $223 thousand and $549 thousand was plunked down in favour of Republican candidates you can suddenly see the Democrats not getting trounced by the same numbers in the House and then the narrative really does change substantially.

It's then you get something which is much closer to the truth of what voters had in mind when they were voting, and that was for the most part, a pox on both their houses! In this equation, as kos informs us, there are also numbers concerning who turned out to vote that have to be kept in mind:
Exit polls found Republicans are more unpopular than Democrats, yet they still voted GOP; 35 percent believed Wall Street was to blame for the terrible economy, yet they still voted for the GOP. (56-42, to be exact). 31 percent of voters wanted the new health care law expanded, yet 14 percent of them voted Republican. 30% want the law kept he same as it is now, and 30% of them voted Republican.
The 2008 electorate was 74% white, plus 13% black and 9% Latino. The 2010 numbers were 78, 10 and 8. So it was a considerably whiter electorate.
In 2008, 18-to-29-year-olds made up 18% and those 65-plus made up 16%. Young people actually outvoted old people. This year, the young cohort was down to 11%, and the seniors were up to a whopping 23% of the electorate. That's a 24-point flip.
The liberal-moderate-conservative numbers in 2008 were 22%, 44% and 34%. Those numbers for yesterday were 20%, 39% and 41%. A big conservative jump, but in all likelihood because liberals didn't vote in big numbers.


Add to these figures the fact that overall turnout was down by about a third, or more, from nearly 130 million to about 82.5 million. That's at least 45 million no-shows, and the exits tell us the bulk of them were liberal, young, black, Latino. If 25 million of these no-shows had voted, Democratic losses would pretty obviously have been in the normal range, and they'd still control the House.
Now given that last graph, why am I so worried and why do I see the results as a sea-change? Why is this not just the regular swing back and forth from voting for D's and R's that occurs regularly in the history of American politics? The answer to that is simple: corporate money.

This was the first election cycle where corporations were allowed to spend unlimited monies on the elections and some of it was misspent. They will only get better at finding and targeting politicians whose policies on regulations, oversight and transparency they find disagreeable. Regulations that protect us all I should add. They will only become more adept at all of this and that spells even worse times ahead. The Chamber it has to be mentioned are champions of outsourcing exactly the kinds of jobs that helped create and sustain the middle-class, and people seem not to realize what a truly horrible and manipulative organization they are. They do not care about the American worker or the middle-classes let alone the narrative of the "American Dream," that is constantly trotted out for discussion during election season. They are in the business of seeing to it that their corporate members can gouge, profit and racketeer.

A colleague of mine suggested that next election the Chamber and their corporate pals will repeat this kind of spending but on behalf of the Democrats and in the end all will be the same as it ever was. I'm here to tell you that would be worse if it proves true because at that point the system will be corrupt and broken beyond saving. As it is there are already too many Democrats who are indistinguishable from their Republican counterparts -- the same Democrats who helped to obstruct much of  Obama's agenda. Less of that kind of Democrat are needed not more and the consequences for the American worker would prove disastrous: no minimum wage no health care no union protections... in fact they'd prettty much like to do away with all the 20th century legislative victories for workers that were hard earned.

UPDATE: Bonus video from Bill Maher that does a great job of highlighting some of the issues raised here:

1 comment:

ck said...

Unlimited corporate funding of parties and electoral campaigns...even before this cycle, we saw the corruption and how politicians were in the pockets of corporations. It's mainly why Obamacare didn't have a public option, despite the fact that would have been the cheapest and most efficient to fund, has been proven.

I fear it will happen in Canada. Harper will no doubt attempt to remove the per vote subsidy again, and this is something over 60% of Canadians want, not fully realizing the disaster that is US congress.

Even here, lobbyists have too much power, I find. Our politicians have to raise funds, rendering them beggars in 3 piece suits.

It's already starting to happen; it's why we'll never have a green shift, why Americanized health care is being pushed so hard here in Canada, and of course, corporate tax cuts are here to stay, no matter which party is in power.

There was a guy from New York, Gerald Celente, the guy who predicts trends, who was on Tommy Tea-party Shnurmacher show who told a caller that he believes parties should and must be publicly funded.

Try and explain that to the Timmy Horton's crowd; why, we would simply be dismissed as "elitists!"