"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, October 30, 2022

No Person of Conscience Can Sit Out this Midterm Election

from Common Dreams:

Democracy and the very principle of a Society of Equals are on the ballot—and, yes, it's about the Economy too.

Alan Minsky

The 2022 midterm election represents a unique and historic opportunity to protect our democracy and our right to equality before the law against an unrelenting offensive being waged by the reactionary right.

We must mobilize now and vote for democracy, equality before the law, and economic policies that support the vast majority of Americans—by voting for Democrats in the midterms.

In an unprecedented move, the Democratic Party has committed itself to altering the Senate filibuster to pass voting rights, protect democracy, and codify Roe v Wade—but to do so they must maintain a majority in the US House and gain two seats in the Senate for a majority of 52.

If the Republicans prevail, the opportunity to achieve these essential ends will be lost, possibly forever. For if the Democrats do not control Congress, there will be no checks on the Republicans who will use the next two years to implement laws in states across the country to pervert the electoral process to their advantage—with a goal of insuring continued Republican rule.

As I will argue below, we arrived at this place because of the tremendous degree of wealth inequality that has developed over the past four decades, which is not conducive to democracy but oligarchy—and our democracy is the best weapon we have to correct this egregious imbalance that is at the root of our seemingly interminable political crisis.

Therefore, we must mobilize now and vote for democracy, equality before the law, and economic policies that support the vast majority of Americans—by voting for Democrats in the midterms.

Simply put, there can be no false equivalences on these matters. Read the voting rights legislation that the Democratic Party is committed to passing: The John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the election-related components of the For the People Act.  All of it is straightforward common sense, designed to improve the operation of US elections, facilitating greater participation. None of it restricts voting or corrupts the process in a partisan manner.

Of course, these laws will achieve something else equally important. They will block the various ways that Republicans plan to pervert elections to their benefit—by purging voting rolls, by limiting access to voting, putting up barriers to registration, establishing arcane rules about how votes are processed, and even how elections are finalized—and this is to say nothing of widespread Republican support for Trump's Big Lie and the embrace of Authoritarian despots like Hungary's Victor Orban by Republican elites, including Tucker Carlson, arguably the most influential pundit in the country.

The difference between the two parties is night and day. Voting rights were one of the great achievements of the 1960s civil rights movement. However, the Right-wing Supreme Court turned its back on that historical accomplishment with its hideous 2013 Shelby County ruling.  The John Lewis Voting Rights Act re-establishes the central tenets of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  Even if no other matter were on the ballot this year, surely this is enough cause for every person who wants to live in a just, democratic society to cast a ballot this fall.

Similarly, the Democrats commitment to codifying Roe v Wade and re-establishing, by an act of Congress, a woman's right to control her own body as the law of the land should itself be cause for every person who believes in equality to vote Democratic—let alone the fact that it will literally save the lives of countless women.

I'm a Gen Xer, raised in the wake of second-generation feminism and the Roe decision. I do not know a single person who does not, as a matter fact and nature, accept the full equality of women and the right of all people to control their own bodies. Yet today this is not the law of the land. Who can possibly accept this? What kind of moronic troglodyte thinks that the State should rule over women's bodies? And why would anyone not vote if they understood that their vote would reverse this tyranny?

C'mon people. Wake up! If you're reluctant to vote Democrat in your local congressional race because the nominee is not the progressive you supported in the primary, you must recognize that you are not voting for the candidate in this election you are voting for a woman's right to choose and the preservation of democracy. Plain and simple. Sitting out this election is a sin against all that progressives, and people of conscience, have fought for over the past century and a half.

In recent elections, the Democrats mobilized unprecedented millions of Americans through fear of Donald Trump—now, the message is positive: elect Democrats to Congress in 2022 and they will make history, passing laws that will secure our democracy and ensure equality.

As a Progressive Democrat, I know well the recent history of broken promises by establishment Democrats, so I've done my due diligence, reaching out to Senators and Senate candidates. I can report that other than Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, all 47 returning Democrats are committed to supporting a filibuster “carve out" to pass voting rights and codify Roe v Wade. Incoming Vermont Senator Peter Welch feels the same, as do the Democratic nominees for Senate in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida. We need two of those five candidates to win (though all five would be great), combined with holding onto the House majority, to secure the passage of these historic bills.

With two glorious acts of Congress we will have set back the 60-year reactionary counter-offensive against the Civil Rights Movement and the rights of women like never before! It will be a glorious day for everyone in America and around the world who believes in Democracy and equality; and who has watched in horror as anti-democratic forces have gained strength around the world over the past decade. “No Pasaran!" we will declare! This is, and will remain, a democratic society with equality for all under the law!

On top of that, and of almost equal importance, is the fact that when the Democrats use a filibuster carve-out to overturn the rulings of an activist, politicized Supreme Court, it sets a powerful precedent that the Congress will no longer take a back seat to the courts in determining the law of the land when the two are in conflict.  Indeed, the Constitution is clear about the primary role of Congress—and by extension the people who elected Congress—in establishing laws.  By overruling the Shelby and Dobbs rulings—and confirming the 1965 Voting Rights Act and Roe v Wade—Congress itself will be asserting the country's commitment to democracy over autocracy, as embodied by a Supreme Court captured by the reactionary right.

But have no illusions, this has to happen now, in this election, or the opportunity will likely be lost! The Senate map for the 2024 election cycle is daunting, with Democrats defending 23 seats and the Republicans only 10.  The prospect of Democratic gains in the Senate in 2024 are next to nil—and Democrats need to control both Houses of Congress and the Presidency to pass this historic legislation. Two years of inaction, let alone four, when the right-wing courts are rampant seems unfathomable.  So, no matter whether your local Democratic candidate is a progressive champion or a milquetoast moderate, there's only one way to vote in 2022 (unless you don't give a damn about democracy or equality).

The 2022 midterms are indeed a moment of truth—so, why is this not a landslide? On the one hand there's the age-old problem of a Democratic Party unable to channel urgency or passion (perhaps because the “moderate" wing of the Party has been more interested in being stewards of the status quo than champions of the people), but on the other there's the reality of a turbulent economy. On both fronts we need to emulate Bernie Sanders, who is barnstorming the country in the final two weeks like no other politician in the country.

On economics, I am not naïve. I understand the insidious, vertigo-inducing impact of inflation on poor, working, and middle-class households—and the tendency to blame the incumbent party for economic woes. However, much like with the crisis of democracy and equality, the Democrats should be able to rout the Republicans on this matter because, as Bernie always highlights, only the Democrats have popular, positive proposals.

There are three main categories to address concerning inflation: 1. How to provide relief for besieged Americans 2. How to combat the immediate causes of inflation and 3. How to address the long term causes. On all three fronts the Democrats can run circles around the GOP.

First, only the Democrats will push through popular relief measures like the reintroduction of a $600 childhood tax credit, which would seriously help working households suffering because of inflation (and, of course, reduce child poverty).

Second, the Republicans would never touch the equally-popular Democratic proposal for a windfall tax on corporations, whose excessive profits are a major contributor to current inflation.  Not only will this measure force businesses to lessen their gouging of consumers, but the money raised by the tax can be paid directly to poor, working and middle-class households.

Lastly, the Democrats should be crowing about how, unlike Trump, they have passed no fewer than three major pieces of legislation (the Infrastructure Act, the Chips act, and the Inflation Reduction Act) that are revamping US manufacturing—and thus address one of the main causes of the current inflation: the supply-chain breakdowns that have plagued America and the world since the onset on the pandemic. Democrats should be shouting from the rooftops that they are the Party, not the Republicans, who are already bringing back high-wage manufacturing jobs to the US and helping make America immune to the higher costs created by broken supply chains.

Combine these three points about inflation with the urgency of protecting our democracy and equal rights for all citizens and, even at this late hour, these midterms should be a landslide for the Democrats—but, in closing, I want to take it one step further.

As mentioned briefly above, I think the roots of the right-wing's current offensive against American democracy lie in the cavernous divide in wealth distribution that has grown over the past four decades.

The United States now stands apart from every other rich industrialized democracy in the world in the “Gini Coefficient"rankings, which measures a country's degree of wealth inequality.  In the latest ranking, the United States ranks as having the world's 46th worst level of wealth inequality.  The next worst of the prosperous democracies is Italy, conspicuously ranked at 92nd (giving the, perhaps-accurate, impression that the USA is twice as bad in this regard as any other comparable country).  Indeed, the non-USA rich democracies are clotted together among the better third of nations - from East Asia, Australia/NZ, Canada, and Western Europe.

You don't have to be a political scientist to get the message, per the crisis of American democracy. The USA is ranked alongside countries with either failed or fledgling democracies or that have no democratic tradition at all—clearly, democracy doesn't fit with countries with USA levels of wealth inequality.  The reason for this is equally obvious: when a few people own everything in a society, they don't want to bother with interference from the people.

As you can see, we have a problem on our hands.  Fortunately, the democratic tradition runs deep in American society—but it's up to us to save it, right now.

After all, even when it comes to redistributing wealth, it's hard to see how that can be achieved in the United States unless through democratic action (combined, no doubt, with the labor movement, which itself requires support through the democratic process).

Without our democracy, American society will truly be adrift. Now is the time to save it at all costs—and then let's set about using it right—getting money out of politics, supporting the labor movement, protecting the environment, taxing the wealthy, fully funding public education, establishing universal single payer health care, passing a $15 minimum wage, building a just society, fulfilling Dr. King's vision.

None of that is on the horizon, unless we short circuit the right-wing's assault on our democracy and our rights. That has to start now—with this election.

Vote and tell all of your family, friends, and co-workers to vote too.

Let's win this thing and get to work for the people and the planet!

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