The fringes on both sides of the political spectrum have created a vacuum. The Radical Middle must rise and create a new Common Ground and move our country forward. Reasonable, Sensible, Balanced. Outrage does none of us good. Let us stop screaming at each other and get to work!
Sunday, November 22, 2015
The Broken Two-Party System; Democratic Party Autopsy
Democrats have largely written off the ground game in local and state races. They don't engage in public discourse in rural America, the Midwest, the South, the Southwest, and basically anywhere else in America that it’s difficult. Democrats, in general, give up and only bother when it's a presidential year to get out the vote. This has been the fatal flaw of Democrats nationally for a generation.
There really isn't much that can be done overnight or even over a couple of election cycles to fix the misinformation and messaging problems within the electorate. Every now and then, however, you get a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama that can communicate this positive message effectively, but the national party and local grass roots movement lags far behind, and really has completely failed at communicating or organizing behind any set of principles for any sustained period of time.
For whatever reason, the intimidating climate that conservative Republicans have created, fostered, and groomed since the 80s and 90s maintains a level of control over the public square that few are or feel capable of breaking into in any kind of sustained way. I know many people in these areas refuse to vote because they don't believe it matters. Their specific reasons may differ, but the general commonality is a disconnect between policies, politicians, and their individual lives.
Meanwhile, small groups of voters meet in seclusion talking about politics, disdain for the lack of local options, and complaints about big money in politics instead of actually doing something about it. Of course, it is difficult to organize with no larger organization to help guide you. And, I honestly don't buy this notion any longer that big money is solely or even primarily to blame in buying elections when participation in elections has been so low for so long.
The reason why voter turnout is so depressed is simply because people don't believe it matters, while others who feel that it does but don't get out and vocalize and organize so that it actually does matter to more people do nothing but gossip and complain about how unfair the system is.
That's a very harsh and generalized view and diagnosis of the problems, but it fits the data and the history.
Others argue that those that do vote simply don't vote for the 'right candidates.’ This is the mistake both Democrats and Republicans have made for decades. They believe, ‘I’m right,’ and that's all that's necessary. Facts do not matter. Logic and reasoning do not matter. Convincing anyone doesn’t matter. ‘I’m right, and you’re wrong.’
What I've found in talking to actual voters across the country is that they believe the simplistic messages that Republicans have communicated over the last three or four decades because those messages make sense and have been told repeatedly by their grandparents, parents, churches, and community leaders. However, the cracks have begun to form within that coalition because the basic premises have all been proven false. Yet, the anger and outrage due to the lack of results has never been connected to those failed policies.
Instead of changing the policies, Republicans in the late 90s, early 2000s, and into this decade have fostered a political climate of deep partisanship, focusing the attention of their base on what divides the country through alienation and fear, too often through xenophobia or extreme Judeo-Christian values. Through over gerrymandering of their legislative districts, however, many of these Republicans have become beholden to the extreme fringes of their party.
Instead of giving up on the failed policies of the last few decades, the Republican base has given up on the establishment Republican candidates to lead them into the 2016 presidential race. This has never been more evident than an examination of the polling over the course of this year.
Democrats, on the other hand, have relied on being right or having facts but rarely having the stamina or fortitude to stand up for these facts or their policies where it may make a difference. They seem to abhor talking and discussing their policies and principles with those that disagree with them strongly. This isn't just about the politicians either. This actually is much more fundamental.
Democratic voters or those who agree with many policies that Democrats have passed or believe in have a terrible track record of not speaking their minds publicly, and when some do it can be in a highly disrespectful, demeaning way. Probably, this is in response to the extreme methods of intimidation that the right has used and perfected in the public square. For some reason the left has never been able to get away with the same tactics as the far right.
However, without a competing narrative, the intimidating and simplistic narrative of the far right in America has often won the day in these local and state races. Only where there's a solid, vocal grassroots effort that engages the public regularly will the Democrats ever begin to stem the tide of losing these local and state elections.
For instance, the Democrats ran away from the Obama agenda and the very policies they had passed after 2008. Consequently, they were utterly decimated in 2010 and 2014.
You have to not only stand for some principles, ideas, and policies, but you have to actually communicate, articulate, and be engaging with locals about those principles, ideas, and policies.
Simply put, it is impossible to change the system if you don't win elections. You can't win elections if you don't engage and inspire new voters that their participation is important and necessary to the process, regardless of their opinion.
You can't engage new voters if you don't relate to them where they are and in what they're doing. This is the essence of grassroots campaigning. It's also what's been missing on the local level for Democrats across a large swath of the country. Many local elections go uncontested, or worse unelectable candidates are on the ballot for statewide or federal races.
In order to convince people their vote and the candidate actually have a chance to win and be successful, these local and state parties have to get their acts together. That means opening mouths, ears, and minds, not being utterly dismissive of oppositional points of view, and actually working for every vote in every election.
It’s a sad day whenever I hear anyone say they feel their vote doesn't count or that this democratic process is all for nothing. This is America, and I will not give up on this country nor the promise of what this country was founded upon. The wish, the dream, the hope for a better tomorrow, united together, we walk forward together.