Thursday, November 13, 2014

Democracy Collapsed, and The Gray Lady Noticed

It was the worst voter turnout in three quarters of a century! Only slightly more than a third of eligible voters showed up for the meh-terms! And the Democrats lost big, almost as big as Democracy itself!

 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.


annenigma said...

The Gray Lady told a real whopper today in an editorial:

"The Times has no intention of altering its coverage to meet the demands of any government — be it that of China, the United States or any other nation. Nor would any credible news organization. The Times has a long history of taking on the American government, from the publication of the Pentagon Papers to investigations of secret government eavesdropping."

Ha ha! No wonder they didn't allow comments - the Chinese would have had as big a guffaw as the rest of us if they had the opportunity to read our comments. But alas, we were blocked, just like they blocked James Risen's piece about Government warrantless wiretapping in response to Government pressure, and as a result helped get W re-elected. I think the Chinese are smart enough to know that the NYT does their own share of stifling dissent when the Government desires it. National Security! Protect the Regime!

Back to the topic of low voter turnout, when I took a class last year titled 'The Second American Revolution', we discussed and plotted, I mean planned, for what we could do to overthrow the corporate regime masquerading as our government. We had a debate where I advocated for dropping our Duopolist party registration. The other side advocated for not voting at all. Looks like they won.

Unfortunately and predictably, the PTB and their media mouthpieces get to interpret it any way they want, like voter apathy instead of pure disgust. I thought that a far clearer and more immediate message would be for the Duopoly to see the collapse in their rolls. That would get their attention in a big way and we wouldn't need to wait 2-4 years for an election either. Perhaps we'd have better choices in candidates or policies, if not parties, if they knew ahead of time that people were fed up. Now they just assume we're apathetic.

The problem begins when the Duopoly sets up tables in public venues and registers voters directly. Add a little friendliness and support, and they've hooked a member for life after they've got their signature and party registration locked down. They even get all their info immediately to start hounding them for money. Even if people later decide they don't appreciate the job their party is doing, they aren't likely to haul their butts to the voter registration office to change or drop their party affiliation. They're lifelong party members come Hell or high water.

Short of banning the Duopoly from registering voters themselves on the streets, the NOTA option (None Of The Above) on ballots would actually do wonders. However, the same Duopoly that successfully sues and passes laws to keep third parties off ballots and candidates out of Presidential debates won't allow it. The Duopoly IS at the root of the problem and finding a solution.

So now the Democrats are sweating a little bit, but the Republicans are emboldened, because any fool would realize that the Republicans wouldn't sit out a fight like Democrats. It's their feisty, fighting spirit that will win them more support, forget their policies - same Duopolist difference anyway.

Cirze said...

A classic, Karen!

I'm quoting you.


Patricia said...

This was excellent, you nailed it! I work in advertising with many Gen Xer's and Milennials. They don't vote. I have engaged them in many political discussions, the bottom line is they don't trust either party. They know that their vote is a vote for corporations and they have chosen to opt out. Many of them will never be able to afford their own home and they are smart enough to know the cost of college will never pay off. We all work long, hard hours and are exhausted and underpaid. Working hard and doing "all the right things," that social contract is gone! Here in New Jersey they watch their parents and relatives struggle with some of the highest taxes in the country. They are doubled and tripled up like an episode of a future "Waltons" episode.
They have seen first hand the corruption that kept hurricane Sandy funds bottled up, going to projects that politicians gave away, while the peons waited for help or just disappeared, never to rebuild.
They know their food is being poisoned by Monsanto.
These people are NOT stupid. They are suspicious, and rightly so. You are so right about the scapegoating. There will be less and less people being engaged by the political process and the few that I know that gave their all for President Obama, feel bitterly betrayed. Thank you for the validation Karen. Keep up the pressure. What you write is the truth as uncomfortable as it may be.

Pearl said...

In Midst of War, Israel Clamps Down on Internal Dissent -

Interesting off topic post script.

Denis Neville said...

As Karen has so eloquently written, I, too, tire, as a resident of Kansas, of being told by the party elites that "we get the government we deserve” by "voting against our interests."

Many Democrats like to site Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” when they smugly point out that Kansans are too stupid to see that they are voting against their own economic interests when they vote Republican.

However, they misunderstand Frank’s central point that it was the Democrats who had stopped representing those Kansans’ economic interests:

“By all rights the people should today be flocking to the party of Roosevelt, not deserting it. Culturally speaking, however, that option is simply not available to them anymore. Democrats no longer speak to the people on the losing end of a free-market system that is becoming more brutal and arrogant by the day. But along the way the things that liberalism once stood for – equality and economic security – will have been abandoned completely. Abandoned, let us remember, at the historical moment when we need them most.” Why did Kansas voters choose self-destruction? It was “the utter and final repudiation of [the Democratic Party’s] historical decision to remake themselves as the other pro-business party.” “Liberalism ceased to be relevant to huge portions of its traditional constituency, and we can say that liberalism lost places like Shawnee and Wichita with as much accuracy as we can point out that conservatism won them over.”

“The liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. And as corporate power pollutes and poisons the ecosystem and propels us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs, the liberal class, which serves no purpose in the new configuration, is being abandoned and discarded. The death of the liberal class means there is no check to a corporate apparatus designed to enrich a tiny elite and plunder the nation. An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope, however remote, of a correction or a reversal. It ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and middle classes will find expression outside the confines of democratic institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy.” - Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class

Thomas Frank on the 2014 election:

“… this is our fourth hard-times election in a row. Lashing out blindly and in all directions against the powerful — against low wages as well as against a comfortable “class” that is amply represented in Washington — is still our political default position, some six years after the financial crisis and the Wall Street bailout. For many Americans, the recession is still on. They know that their region hasn’t recovered … that their household wealth isn’t coming back … that people like them no longer have a shot at the middle-class life in which they were raised.”

“We are living in a new, oligarchic world — an endless downward spiral for the kind of voters who put FDR in the White House four times — and it’s time for the party’s leadership to notice the changed situation. Many of our modern, post-partisan Democrats are about as well adapted to the current climate of economic fury and apprehension as an alligator is to the icy waters of the Arctic.” – Thomas Frank,

Pearl said...

3 things White House doesn't want you to know about ObamaCare, plus 3 things coming in 2015 you aren’t going to like |

This is some more information adding to your previous column, Karen. Although from Fox News I believe the information is accurate and my comment to Krugman all the more correct. Thank you for publishing it in Sardonicky.

Zee said...


Is this the link you meant? The one you provided didn't seem to work.

Pearl said...

Zee: in Google search put up:

Fox News, Three Things Obama doesn't want you to know about Obamacare.

Let me know if you find it.

Zee said...


Got it. Thanks.

Pearl said...

Cost of Coverage Under Affordable Care Act to Increase in 2015

The comments of readers who tell the real story of what is happening to them and demanding single payer, reveals the truth behind the 'Unaffordable Care Act'. Maybe something will begin to happen in U.S.Health Care.

Zee said...


Thanks for the link to the NYT article on expected health care cost increases in 2015—of up to 20%!

What most fascinated me about the article was the clueless—or perhaps, contemptuous—optimism of Marilyn Tavenner, the administation's happy-talking mouthpiece for ObamaCare:

“'Consumers should shop around,' said Marilyn B. Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal insurance exchange serving three dozen states. 'With new options available this year, they’re likely to find a better deal.' She asserted that the data showed that 'the Affordable Care Act is working.'”

Yeah. Sure. Shop around. For lower prices? Maybe. But with those lower prices, also for newer and smaller networks, new doctors, new hospitals, and perhaps a total rebuilding of physician-patient trust for people with life threatening-illnesses, people who had just established that same trust under their old plans with their old networks under last year's system.

“The Affordable Care Act is working[?]” My arse.

I'll be taking this article up on the 'phone with my federal legislators later this morning.

Zee said...


Well, maybe I won't be calling my legislators THIS morning: I forgot that today is Sunday.

I haven't quite been myself lately.