What This Is…
Issue #85- October 28, 2012
In this issue: Vote
Get Out and Vote…
Early voting started this past week here in Wisconsin and we are less than 10 days away from Election Day. Elections always matter, but this year's election has taken on extra significance for a variety of reasons. The rancor of the discourse has amped up the interest as well. Here in Wisconsin we are not only interested in the national races, but also in the local races that will determine control of our state senate. A GOP majority in the senate would allow Governor Walker to resume his unobstructed attacks on public services and public employees.
I would guess that for most citizens, November 6th will bring a sense of relief. Relief from the constant barrage of advertising and the vicious political dialogue that has poisoned our airwaves and media outlets. Relief from the robocalls and polling. A chance to return to "Normalcy" and ignore politics for at least a year or two. Even those of us who have been "awakened" politically feel worn down and in many ways discouraged by our nation's inability to engage in meaningful, polite discourse over the issues of the day.
These feelings of exhaustion and frustration lend themselves to a mood of pessimism. Pessimism fueled by the ongoing cacophony of attack ads and angry rhetoric that fills our airwaves, mailboxes and newsfeeds. Citizens of all political persuasions are expressing dissatisfaction with the process and the results of recent campaigns. We face widespread concern about the validity of our electoral process as well.
The result is a curious blend of activism and apathy. On one hand there are a significant number of people who are more involved now than they have ever been, while at the same time a significant number of people are continuing to "opt out" of the voting process. Look at the turnout in the June recall elections in Wisconsin. With all the hype and significant reasons for involvement turnout still only reached around the 60% mark. While everyone trumpeted the record number of voters as evidence of the intense interest we cant forget that 40% of the population still didn't make it to the polls.
There are many reasons for the continuing lack of voter participation in elections at all levels, but in the end there really is no reason that any eligible voter should fail to cast a ballot. With early voting, absentee ballots mailed to your home, free taxi rides on election day and numerous other "Get Out the Vote" efforts we should see close to 100% participation by citizens fulfilling their most basic of duties.
Each of us has a responsibility to encourage, cajole and motivate those around us to get to the polls and cast a ballot on, or before November 6th.
Why I (Usually) Vote Democrat, and Why I Will Do So Again…
I claim to be an independent progressive when it comes to identifying my political allegiances. However, it sure seems like this means that most of my votes have been given to Democrats. This excludes a brief relationship that I had with the Republican party in the late 1970's and early 1980's when I was drawn to the color blue that was used to show states that had voted Republican. I guess it was to contrast with the gray used for Democrats in a time when some viewers still had black and white TV's. As a Civil War buff I couldn't find a way to support the colors of the Confederacy. I was also around 10 so my political views were not fully developed either.
I'm not alone in this and recent elections have only cemented the party affiliations that many of us have. This is true whether we fully support the party we cast a vote for, or even if we have significant problems with the platforms they put forward. In a two party system like the one in America today, there is little wiggle room for the independent voter. It feels to many like we are stuck voting for a candidate because casting a ballot for an independent only serves to lend support to a candidate we oppose.
I hear dissatisfaction coming from both camps, even though the spokespeople of the different parties do their best to mask dissension and spin any internal conflicts to limit the appearance of disagreement in the party ranks. Since I am neither a conservative, nor a Republican I won't speak to their squabbles over just how far to the right they would like Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan to veer. My concern is that the issues that many here in Wisconsin have with President Obama may end up with people casting ballots for negative reasons instead of choosing the candidate that most closely represents their interests while still having a reasonable chance of winning.
The issues that Wisconsin's progressives have are many and legitimate. We wonder where President Obama was during our struggles with Governor Walker and why he provided so little support for our efforts to advance causes that he claimed to have such passion for in his campaign of 2008. We look at his record on education and the fact that worker's rights have continued to erode under his watch. Many feel that he hasn't gone far enough in speaking out to represent those who supported his candidacy 4 years ago. In some ways it seemed like our resistance in Wisconsin fueled a change in Obama's words and actions and provided a spark that strengthened his resolve and put him on a path towards becoming the president we hoped to have when we elected him.
Yet, it seems like it may be too little and too late for some voters. Their dissatisfaction leads them to think seriously about casting a ballot for a 3rd party candidate. They do this with the knowledge that a vote for anyone but Obama is a vote for Romney. They do this with a clear motivation and a resolve to make a statement about their perceived lack of choice in this election. I understand their feelings and opinions and wholeheartedly support their right to cast a ballot as they choose. No one should be "guilted" or coerced into voting for a candidate.
I do hope that people consider all their options and cast their vote thoughtfully and with care. We saw the results of a divided and disconnected electorate in 2010 and are paying a heavy price for those results. When you compare the election results of 2008 and 2010 you see a huge number of voters who chose to sit out the most recent election. These voters silenced themselves and now face challenges much more significant as a result. Wisconsin provides an excellent example of a state where this occurred.
On a very basic level it is true that we should cast our votes without thought about strategy or political consequences. I know that whenever I vote my first criterion is the candidates stance on issues that I feel are important. Political repercussions are farther down on my list, but certainly have come into play at times. Unfortunately, there have been elections where I felt I was casting a ballot for the "lesser of two evils". Luckily for me, the election of 2012 isn't one of those.
The candidates on their ticket aren't perfect, but then no candidate ever is. In my opinion there are many reasons to get out and vote Democrat in this election. The most important of these reasons isn't based on any specific position on a single issue. Based on recent experiences at the local and state level, along with observations of what has happened nationally it appears that the Democratic party offers the best chance for more voices to be heard. Here in Wisconsin we have seen the GOP use their power to stifle opinion and force legislation and policy through the system without allowing for debate or discussion to occur.
I know that within any demographic there is a wide range of opinions. Our nation's system of representative democracy should mean that individual voices will be blended into policy that (if our representatives do their jobs) will trend in the direction that benefits our society. It may not happen quickly and there will be setbacks, but by allowing for public input and debate between representatives a common interest can often be reached. Even when we fall short of our aspirations for our nation we still can see trends towards something "better". If we don't then it is our obligation as citizens to rise up and make our voices heard.
The key to the process is allowing multiple voices to be heard and for all parties to approach the problem solving process in an open and rational manner that looks beyond individual needs. Our representatives need to defend the interests of those they represent, but not at the cost of undermining the system or by excluding other opinions from the debate. We see the GOP trying to silence the voices of a majority of citizens and advance the goals of a minority in many ways.
Voter suppression is one obvious example of the Republican effort to limit participation in the process. The consequences for our democracy should be obvious and GOP control of any part of our government (local, state, national) will help them in their efforts to seize control of our nation.
Voter suppression doesn't have to be done through legislation or public policy. In fact, when done through the workplace or on a personal level it may even have a more damaging effect. Intimidation and threats are one way to get employees to vote against their own interests.
Wisconsinites have seen firsthand what happens when this current brand of Republican does when they have full control of the government. Public debate is silenced and/or ignored and radical policy is implemented without due process. Who can forget the image of Representative Barca trying to make a point while the role is called to push Act 10 ahead.
On a all levels our political discourse and culture has changed drastically for the worse. The rules of our legislatures and political entities are designed to facilitate discussion, but can be manipulated and used to achieve just the opposite. We have seen the GOP use tactics to stall initiatives that may have helped numerous citizens.
These types of actions are done, not for positive reasons, but rather to undermine the opposition. We know that politics is all about public perception and "spin", but to bring our government to a standstill isn't in anyone's best interest. I should take a moment to address the obvious argument from the conservative point of view, isn't that exactly what the Wisconsin 14 did last spring? I would argue that the Democrat senators from Wisconsin left the state because due process and legislative procedures were not being followed. If the GOP controlled legislature in Wisconsin had shown any sign that reasonable debate was going to occur I don't know that the senators would have gone to Illinois. We won't ever know, but they were facing an unreasonable situation and their options were limited. There is a difference between making a stand on an issue (one that could result in significant consequences for them) and simple obstructionism for political purposes.
The fact that the economic policies that these GOP legislators are advancing are not in the best interests of most Americans makes their actions more troubling. While attacking President Obama's ideas the Republicans are offering an agenda that weakens our nation's economy and harms many citizens opportunities to succeed.
This is just as true in Wisconsin as it is around the nation.
Dividing the population isn't only done economically. It is difficult to see how the GOP's policies benefit citizens who are not white and male. I am hesitant to accuse anyone of racism, sexism or other prejudice. It is difficult to know another person's true thinking or the reasons for their actions and accusations are often thrown around too quickly. However, it is just as difficult see how the rhetoric or policies advanced by conservatives benefits groups outside what they consider "mainstream America".
The divide and conquer approach has been used effectively by the GOP in the arenas of education and labor relations. In both places we see conservatives using fear and intimidation, combined with some envy and misinformation to pit groups that should be working together against one another. The result is bad policy that is supported by people who thought they were getting something different.
This is a great SNL skit that puts our economic and labor issues in a different light.
In the end, the question remains, who are our representatives representing? It certainly appears that many of them are not representing their constituents, but rather their large money donors.
Chevron Donates $2.5 Million To GOP Super PAC In Single Largest Corporate Donation Post-Citizens Uni
The public struggles to find accurate information that isn't politically motivated. Any action by any political figure or public event is presented in ways to make a specific candidate or agenda look good. This is politics as usual, but it is politics as usual on an inflated scale. The rhetoric around the attacks in Libya provide an example of pain and suffering manipulated for political ends.
We face a critical election that will have significant consequences. Our next president will, in all likelihood, make multiple appointments to the Supreme Court. We face some difficult challenges in foreign policy. Domestically, we need to address our economic troubles and get our nation moving ahead. All of these issues demand strong leadership on all sides, statespeople instead of demagogues.
The progressive philosophy is one that looks for the greater good and emphasizes collective action. Now is not the time for us to abandon our beliefs or to give in to more aggressive political agendas that claim to be the quickest path to success.
What started in Wisconsin has been spreading across the nation. We need to cast our ballots in ways that will allow the movement to continue to grow. By voting Democrat we won't necessarily get someone who represents our specific interests, but we will allow for debate and discussion to continue.
There are other, more influential, people who think the same as I do.
In the end, no matter what your stand on politics is, we need to see huge turnouts in the November 6th election. In Wisconsin it is even more important for progressives to turn out to make sure that the senate retains its Democrat majority. Every vote counts, make sure to use yours.