Why, even in good old reliable New York -- where the Democratic choices (and rare victors) included a Wall Street puppet-governor with a hankering to break up "monopolistic" public education, and a crusading Democratic attorney general who forgot all about prosecuting banksters once Obama gave him a seat in the First Lady's box at a State of the Union address -- the turnout was a "shameful" 28.8%.
Shame, shame, shame on the voters, was the subliminal message in a New York Times editorial published on Tuesday. Shame on the stay-at-home slackers who let a combination of acrimony and apathy get in the way of handing a mandate to the most loathsome and undeserving bunch of hacks to come along in.... well, three-quarters of a century.
The Times editorial was about as clueless as the candidates themselves, as if that were even possible.
To be fair, the writers also partially blamed negative advertising and lack of a clear message (there they go with that "narrative deficit" meme again!) on the Democrats' resounding defeat, and the anti-Obama craze and outright mendacity for the Republicans' relative success. But the Times missed the forest for the trees: it's the plutocracy and the corruption and the influence-peddling, stupid! The Supreme Court's decision equating money with speech went totally unmentioned in the data-driven angst and Gray Lady pearl-clutching.
My published response:
It wasn't just the disgust, the apathy, the voter suppression, the nasty TV ads. It was the mass epiphany that voting, all by itself, just doesn't mean what it used to, as in the good old days before Citizens United.
As Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens showed in their study of voting patterns, it wouldn't matter if there was an 80% turnout. Politicians pass laws based on what the wealthy want, period. What the authors call "economic elite domination" trumps democratic pluralism. Pro-change majorities get what they want only about 30% of the time, the study shows, and usually only if their desires mesh with those of the wealthy.
For example, since the rich generally favor marriage equality as much as the average voter, we're seeing huge legislative successes in gay rights initiatives. On the other hand, since economic elites aren't too keen on a federal minimum wage or expanded Social Security, those ideas are going nowhere fast -- as are most policies that would benefit ordinary people.
So, blaming voters, telling us that "we get the government we deserve" based on apathy, or "voting against our interests" is getting mighty stale, mighty fast.
We are smarter than we're given credit for, while the intelligence of the elites who actually run this de facto oligarchy is tragically over-estimated.
Memo to the victors with their spoils -- if you think that this rigged system has given you a popular mandate, you need to think again.And in a follow-up response to a reader who disagreed with me:
I didn't mean to suggest that we not vote at all. I can very well understand why so many people abstained, however. I voted in the meh-terms myself (albeit with some cynicism) because it was a local election, and states and counties are the only places where there is even a prayer for change., esp. with the progressive props on many ballots this year. I have also written comments and blog posts urging others to vote, with the full awareness that there are more weighted and "valuable" votes than ours being cast. So, we can't simply traipse to the polls every two and four years and then just sit back and rest and feel that we've done our entire "permitted" civic duty. There are plenty of other valuable ways to be a good citizen. I engage my more conservative friends in political discussions all the time.... sometimes my lefty reasoning strikes a chord, most times not, but at least I've engaged. I find there is a lot of common ground with "the other side" re Wall Street corruption and government surveillance, for example. So... voting, boycotting, writing, protesting, picketing, striking, organizing, not giving in to the divide and conquer techniques the duopoly uses to maintain its power. Activism of all kinds is necessary if we have a hope of reanimating our democracy.Meanwhile, the corporate partisan wars are still trumping the class war as the acceptable media narrative. The latest battle is dubbed #GruberGate. Just who is Jonathan Gruber, that rare purveyor of honesty, calling "stupid" anyway? The Democrats are frantically trying to push this verbal loose cannon under the bus, all the while insisting that he is only calling the "yahoos" stupid.... not them. The Republicans are reveling in the joy of proving that just because they're professional paranoiacs doesn't mean liberal elites really aren't out to get 'em -- and now they can finally prove it, by golly. (You can read all about the latest smoking gun video here.)
Very few pundits are actually talking about the duopolistic complicity of the whole corrupt system. They don't dare admit that our elected officials hold all of us in utter, sneering contempt, and that the low turnout last week is tantamount to a corporate coup. They don't dare admit that through this default "victory" our rulers hold power illegitimately. Not many of them are talking about the inconvenient truth that even with its abysmal 13% approval rating, Congress has seen the return of 95% of its members.
Admitting all of this might hasten the inevitable collapse of the fraudulent facade on top of the very real ruins of our democracy. And thus we pretend, we deflect, we scapegoat, we ignore the forest for the trees.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose we can believe in, toujours and ad infinitum.