Midterm elections always see a drop in turnout, but this one was amplified by major social upheaval. This worst economic collapse in 80 years was bound to cause severe social disruption. Millions are out of work, have lost their homes and schools, moved and become disconnected from the political process. Millions are in personal crisis and, when in personal crisis, people deal with it personally. They become depressed and disheartened. And this collapse has fallen most heavily on the lives and spirits of whom? The middle class, young folk, low-income families, and minority group members.
Data is still accumulating, but indications are that those mentioned above didn't vote in the numbers they did in 2008. For example, the youth vote was down from 18% to 11% of the electorate. As a Democratic precinct chair, I called voters in my precinct to encourage voting. Again and again, when trying to reach young voters I heard, "not a working number." They likely moved and became separated from their voting "home" where they're registered to vote. University students who had been misled to register back in their home counties tried to vote where they were on election day and could not. What a shame! Seeing this, I thought of the many others who could be thus disconnected from the electoral process and I realized that it was not just young folk. Not this time.
So, the message of the election was not in the "will of the voters," but in the pain of the non-voters. Millions were disenfranchised by economic and social disruption, and progressives and Democrats didn't do a good enough job of communicating with them to maintain their political involvement. Still, most of them would have voted as they did in 2008. And, on issue after issue, Americans support progressive public policies that help ordinary Americans and provide security and wellbeing for all -- policies championed and implemented by President Obama and the Democrats. Many are aware that it was capitalistic economic and regulatory policy that directly caused the recession and the greatest income inequality in the history of our nation. They see the Republicans now calling for more of the same, and they don't want it.
In particular, small business owners may have voted against their own best interests. If you are one, do the math on your business plan -- if middle-class incomes drop, jobs go away and there is less demand for goods and services you provide. Which would you rather have, a small tax cut or a much larger income from higher demand? Which of those will lead you to add jobs and build the economy?
Keep in mind that our federal taxes actually are very low, compared to the 1950s overall. And Democrats in Congress -- some of whom ironically just got voted out of power -- brought businesses all kinds of tax deductions and credits to spur growth and gave more than 95% of working Americans a tax cut. They did so against stiff Republican opposition. The Bush tax cuts that Republicans now want to continue for the highest incomes have been in effect since 2001. They haven't created any jobs and represent $700 billion of the deficit.
The Republican Party of today has become the servant of the very, very wealthy -- banksters, Wall Streetwalkers, multi-national corporations and their CEOs. Aside from tax cuts on high incomes, they seek deregulation for big polluters and financial firms. They want to shrink the parts of government that help ordinary Americans and the parts that would hold big money accountable. Small businesses and individuals at all income levels have always fared better under Democratic government. It's a fact. Everyone prospers when every one prospers.
So the "message in the bottle" is that, while economic collapse and social disarray disenfranchised many, they are still out here and will return to the political arena. It is the high-turnout, not the low-turnout, election that is the better indicator of the will of the voters. So, although the tea party/Republican agenda may have scored a temporary and limited victory, its days are numbered. It looks backward to a past that never was, is out of touch with reality (to put it nicely), is socially divisive, has no concrete plans to improve our lives, and it prioritizes capitalism over people and the Earth. I don't think most Americans want that.