Midterms: Democratic Party didn’t give people a reason to vote

It’s absolutely true that Mitch McConnell and the Republicans obstructed every Democratic initiative. On the other hand, Democrats didn’t give people a reason to go to the polls. Why should Democrats bother to vote when its clear their party chooses the needs of banks and corporations over the needs of its constituents?

Whatever you think of Ralph Nader, he made a lot of sense when he spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now about Democratic losses in the midterm elections. He says there are plenty of excuses being made like being outspent by Republicans, and Republican obstructionism, but they don’t hold water.

The Democrats raised huge amounts of money this time around, and in 2012 . . . plenty of money to win. [But] . . . they didn’t get their own voters out, because although they finally came around to the only issue that Politico said is getting traction for the Democrats—raising the minimum wage for 30 million people, who are paid less now than workers in 1968 adjusted for inflation, 30 million people and their families, a lot of voters—they didn’t make it a big enough issue. . .

We got a president who spent almost two weeks in salons, from New York and Maine and San Francisco and Los Angeles, raising money for the Democrats, not barnstorming the country on an issue that has . . .80 percent support. . . .So, . . .they didn’t have a policy. They didn’t have an agenda. They didn’t have the message. They had tons of money to put on insipid television ads that didn’t move the needle. . .

In other words, people back home are not given enough reason to vote for the Democrats. But they’re given plenty of emotional reason to vote for the Republicans because of all the social issues—the school prayer, the reproductive rights, the gun control. The Democrats have dropped the economic issue that won election after election for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman. They can no longer defend our country against the most militaristic, corporatist, cruel, anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-women, even anti-children party—the Republican Party.

A lot of soul searching is needed, and we shouldn’t let Citizens United and voting restriction laws . . . be used as alibis by the Democrats in Congress.

“Soul searching,” of course, means actually adopting a progressive agenda—one that serves the majority of Americans. And that means being willing to give up the corporate gravy train—the big campaign contributions, and the lucrative jobs upon leaving office. Most (although not all) Democrats are hooked into this money/power revolving door, so I don’t expect the money influence in the party to change, on its own, any time soon.

But there is some good news coming out of the midterms. The Republican “sweep” of Congress in no way represents the underlying mood of the country. Democratic losses came from a cocktail of Republican voter suppression and glaring Democratic Party policy failures.

While Republicans were claiming a mandate on the national level, there were plenty of local progressive victories that reveal a growing left-leaning electorate. If you’re bummed about the midterms, this laundry list of progressive victories complied by Bill Moyers.com will cheer you up. The dysfunctional, corporate-owned Democratic Party needs to sit up and take notice.

David beats Goliath in Richmond, California

Richmond, California is a small town of 100,000 and the home of Richmond Chevron refinery. For a hundred years, Chevron owned the Richmond city council. Then, in 2007, locals put forward a progressive movement to run local progressive candidates who pledged not to take a penny from corporations. Running on very little money, they won the mayor’s seat and five other local elections based on a progressive, anti-corporate message. Since then, the progressive controlled city council has accomplished a lot, including passing a $13 minimum wage and gaining an additional $114 million in taxes from Chevron. This year progressive candidates won again against extremely well funded Chevron-backed candidates. Chevron and Wall Street money failed to drive progressives out of office.

Richmond is a microcosm of what could happen on a larger scale in this country if progressives became focused and organized.

Minimum Wage measures pass in four red states

Voters in four “red” states—Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota—approved measures on Tuesday to raise the minimum wage. They did this against the well-funded opposition big business groups. As a result, over 1.7 million workers will be getting a raise.

These victories didn’t come out of nowhere. Increasing grassroots pressure and demonstrations by low-wage workers around the country—especially employees of fast-food chains and Walmart—helped bring the issue to the attention of the wider public. Polls show that most Americans, Democrats and Republicans, support an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Worker’s rights expanded in two states

In Massachusetts a ballot measure passed giving paid sick days to about million workers. In Montclair and Trenton, New Jersey, voters passed ballot initiatives expanding paid sick leave to food service, childcare, and home health care workers.

Fetal personhood proposals defeated in Colorado and North Dakota

Planned Parenthood and its allies organized to beat back this extreme assault on women’s rights.

California voters say no to the prison-industrial-complex 

More than two-thirds of California voters approved revising some of the lowest-level petty crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. This was a major victory against the prison-industrial complex and the growing number of private corporations that now run state prisons and support legislation to incarcerate as many people as possible. Money for incarceration is money drained away from schools and other social needs.

Gun reform beats the NRA

Washington state voters defeated the National Rifle Association by approving a ballot measure to impose criminal background checks on people who purchase firearms online or at gun shows.

Soda tax passes in Berkeley California

Three quarters of voters in Berkeley, California adopted a tax on soda and sugary drinks to combat diabetes and other illness. The American Beverage Association spent $2.1 million to oppose the soda tax through full-page newspaper ads, television and radio spots, and telephone and door-to-door canvassing.

The “yes” campaign spent only $273,000, primarily on door-to-door canvassing and phone calls.

Public employees win in Arizona

Arizona voters defeated Proposition 487, put on the ballot by business and Republican interest groups to undermine public employee pensions.

Pot legalized in Oregon and Washington, DC

In Oregon, voters legalized recreational use of marijuana, joining Washington state and Colorado, who adopted similar measures in 2012. In Washington, DC, voters passed a measure to let residents grow cannabis indoors and possess as much as two ounces.