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The 2014 Midterms: Economic Class Issues Trumped Identity Politics

Off in the same direction

Ever since the decline of the American Empire really got going with the Oil Embargo of October 1973, the Democratic Party has been sliding more or less steadily to the right, and by that I mean towards the interests of capitalists. This trend really accelerated during the Clinton Administration, and has been going full throttle ever since.

The Democrats have masked this slide to the right by using identity politics as a way to get voters whose economic interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the Democrats’ big money donors to turn out and vote for them anyway. African-Americans remembered that it was a Democratic president who signed the Civil Rights Acts and that it was as Democrats that their own started getting elected to office. Latinos remembered that the Democrats at least listened to their concerns whereas many Republicans simply wanted to deport them. Women remembered that it was Democrats who championed their rights as citizens, and gays never forgot that it was Republican organizations who organized referendums to ban things like gay marriage in multiple states.

Republicans, meanwhile, tried to do the same thing by appealing to the military, flag-waving self-styled patriots, fundamentalist Protestants, anti-abortion Christians of all denominations, white men threatened by changing demographics, homophobes, xenophobes and other social undesirables(admittedly that last one is my own personal characterization).

These are just a few examples; no doubt many of you can name more, but in last week’s midterm elections identity politics was largely absent. To the contrary, it was economic class and most Americans’ declining standard of living that were the deciding factors, and the results were a damning indictment of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

By a margin of 64% to 36%, registered voters declared that there was so little difference between the two parties on the issues most important to them that there was no good reason for them to go to the polls to choose the Lesser of Two Evils. The margin increases even more when one takes into account the fact that every single time the voters had a chance to do something like raise the minimum wage, they turned out and passed those measures. One also has to remember there are lots of voters like me who always show up because, if for nothing else, I don’t want to give the impression that my silence of not voting gives my assent to how my country is being run into the ground by its arrogant, greedy, and short-sighted ruling class.

In this election, however, I really didn’t  have to worry about that. Even the corporatist talking heads on ABC’s This Week noted the low voter turnout and not even their “Republican strategists” suggested that the American electorate had embraced Republican policy positions. “Democratic strategist” Donna Brazile even came right out and said that the Democrats’ reliance on identity politics to motivate their base had failed them this time. Greta van Susteren astonished me by saying that the reason the Democratic base that had elected and then re-elected Obama didn’t vote was because the Democrats “hadn’t delivered” to them.

That was a stopped clock being right twice a day moment, right there. [cont’d.]

The media faces of the ruling class even looked a little worried, and they should be. It was only when the conversation turned to persuading Americans to be afraid of the cyber-terrorist threat that they all brightened up again.

The Democrats may delude themselves into thinking that their traditional base will return to them because they have no other place to go, and will no doubt do their best to play up (s)Hillary in an attempt to get women voters back, not to mention lesser-of-two-evilism, but as Tarheel Dem said, “The Donkey is dead.”

The fact is that there are other places for these traditional Democratic voters to go. Some 99,000 Ohioans went to the Greens, in spite of the fact that the Green Party didn’t air a single ad and had virtually no money. In places like Ferguson, Missouri, they didn’t wait for the courts to act; they took to the streets in massive acts of civil disobedience to protest the shooting of an unarmed teenager by a policeman. Not so long ago the Occupy Wall Street movement at least succeeded in getting the term “capitalism” back into the public lexicon. More recently, both Democratic AND Republican voters united in expressing their opposition to yet another imperial war in Syria, though the ruling class appears hellbent on getting one, anyway.

And hell may be just where they end up if and when they succeed. There’s nothing that can get a mass popular working class movement going like a combination of declining standards of living, police repression, and unpopular foreign wars.

What this election showed me, in short, is that a clear majority of Americans at least realizes that there IS a ruling class in this country whose interests are not the same as theirs. Oh, they call it different names, but they know it’s there, they know it controls both political parties, and they increasingly know they don’t like it. What will they do about it?

Time will answer that question. All I know for sure is that the answer will not be “nothing.” The rise of economic class and antiwar politics with the decline of identity politics, which allows the elites to divide and rule, is grounds for at least some optimism about the future.

Illustration by Jared Rodriguez / Truthout.org under Creative Commons license

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The 2014 Midterms: Economic Class Issues Trumped Identity Politics

Off in the same direction

Ever since the decline of the American Empire really got going with the Oil Embargo of October 1973, the Democratic Party has been sliding more or less steadily to the right, and by that I mean towards the interests of capitalists. This trend really accelerated during the Clinton Administration, and has been going full throttle ever since.

The Democrats have masked this slide to the right by using identity politics as a way to get voters whose economic interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the Democrats’ big money donors to turn out and vote for them anyway. African-Americans remembered that it was a Democratic president who signed the Civil Rights Acts and that it was as Democrats that their own started getting elected to office. Latinos remembered that the Democrats at least listened to their concerns whereas many Republicans simply wanted to deport them. Women remembered that it was Democrats who championed their rights as citizens, and gays never forgot that it was Republican organizations who organized referendums to ban things like gay marriage in multiple states.

Republicans, meanwhile, tried to do the same thing by appealing to the military, flag-waving self-styled patriots, fundamentalist Protestants, anti-abortion Christians of all denominations, white men threatened by changing demographics, homophobes, xenophobes and other social undesirables(admittedly that last one is my own personal characterization).

These are just a few examples; no doubt many of you can name more, but in last week’s midterm elections identity politics was largely absent. To the contrary, it was economic class and most Americans’ declining standard of living that were the deciding factors, and the results were a damning indictment of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

By a margin of 64% to 36%, registered voters declared that there was so little difference between the two parties on the issues most important to them that there was no good reason for them to go to the polls to choose the Lesser of Two Evils. The margin increases even more when one takes into account the fact that every single time the voters had a chance to do something like raise the minimum wage, they turned out and passed those measures. One also has to remember there are lots of voters like me who always show up because, if for nothing else, I don’t want to give the impression that my silence of not voting gives my assent to how my country is being run into the ground by its arrogant, greedy, and short-sighted ruling class.

In this election, however, I really didn’t  have to worry about that. Even the corporatist talking heads on ABC’s This Week noted the low voter turnout and not even their “Republican strategists” suggested that the American electorate had embraced Republican policy positions. “Democratic strategist” Donna Brazile even came right out and said that the Democrats’ reliance on identity politics to motivate their base had failed them this time. Greta van Susteren astonished me by saying that the reason the Democratic base that had elected and then re-elected Obama didn’t vote was because the Democrats “hadn’t delivered” to them.

That was a stopped clock being right twice a day moment, right there.

The media faces of the ruling class even looked a little worried, and they should be. It was only when the conversation turned to persuading Americans to be afraid of the cyber-terrorist threat that they all brightened up again.

The Democrats may delude themselves into thinking that their traditional base will return to them because they have no other place to go, and will no doubt do their best to play up (s)Hillary in an attempt to get women voters back, not to mention lesser-of-two-evilism, but as Tarheel Dem said, “The Donkey is dead.”

The fact is that there are other places for these traditional Democratic voters to go. Some 99,000 Ohioans went to the Greens, in spite of the fact that the Green Party didn’t air a single ad and had virtually no money. In places like Ferguson, Missouri, they didn’t wait for the courts to act; they took to the streets in massive acts of civil disobedience to protest the shooting of an unarmed teenager by a policeman. Not so long ago the Occupy Wall Street movement at least succeeded in getting the term “capitalism” back into the public lexicon. More recently, both Democratic AND Republican voters united in expressing their opposition to yet another imperial war in Syria, though the ruling class appears hellbent on getting one, anyway.

And hell may be just where they end up if and when they succeed. There’s nothing that can get a mass popular working class movement going like a combination of declining standards of living, police repression, and unpopular foreign wars.

What this election showed me, in short, is that a clear majority of Americans at least realizes that there IS a ruling class in this country whose interests are not the same as theirs. Oh, they call it different names, but they know it’s there, they know it controls both political parties, and they increasingly know they don’t like it. What will they do about it?

Time will answer that question. All I know for sure is that the answer will not be “nothing.” The rise of economic class and antiwar politics with the decline of identity politics, which allows the elites to divide and rule, is grounds for at least some optimism about the future. (more…)

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