Grace Ross: Despite Large Turnout, Politicians Still Ignoring the Voters
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
While the figures are still coming in, the turnout for this year’s November elections across the country was nothing to be sneezed at, especially if you subtract the areas where Sandy had just devastated people’s lives. While the vote might not have broken the huge upsurge in 2008, the turnout was significant. In Massachusetts, we surpassed the historic turnout of 2008 by at least 25,000 voters and counting.
What’s amazing about this is after all the billions spent on elections and the barrage of election commercials that we all had to survive, the conversation inside the D.C. beltway seems to continue as if nothing had happened. It turns out, as I have feared, the nastiness of the commercials seemed to have negatively impacted the turnout elsewhere in the country. Massachusetts voters seem to have been more resilient, but either way that you look at it, both parties drove hard at the end to try to turnout as many voters as they could.
Clearly they heard the same polls that many of us experienced in talking to regular people on the street in the last few months. The drumbeat for jobs was clear. Regardless of which party people were voting for, the candidates were running as “jobs” candidates even as they continued to pander to whatever huge corporate interests have been flooding our election process with money thanks to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.
Not only did the candidates on both sides harp about jobs endlessly, there were other similarities.
The Republican ads against Obamacare highlighted their analysis that it was going to lead to lower funding for Medicare, and seemed to prize Medicare as a critical program for the people of the United States. The Democrats, on their side, argued for Medicare in budget battles for seniors.
Nowhere was there an acceptance of our economy as it stands now. Democrats pounding home on the Bush-era tax breaks for the very wealthy. Republicans focused on the need for economic policy that would bolster small businesses – one of the key avenues for job creation.
So while the messaging on both sides seemed absolutely clear, the priority is those programs that will create jobs, here, the Democrats’ vision clearly came out ahead, but the priority was the same regardless of where you stood on the political spectrum. Both sides fought hard to claim to be the party that supported Medicare the most and was most concerned that it not be defunded.
In Massachusetts that, increase in huge voter turnout over 2008 can easily be drilled down and interpretted. In 91 legislative districts across the state the Budget for All resolution question passed three to one among our millions of voters. What did that budget question make absolutely clear? The priority is full employment and the protection of basic income and benefit programs such as Medicare, Social Security; folks are completely comfortable with the expiration of the tax cuts for the wealthiest; and, as has been true of public opinion polls for years now across the country, bringing our troops home from Afghanistan and putting our resources into our country instead is the top priority of voters. We’ll see how Senator Brown’s votes in the next couple of months, even when he ran on jobs and on Medicare, the vote explicitly defined the priorities voters going forward into our non-fiscal-cliff. We’ll see what he does.
This is supposed to be the magical power of accountability in a Democracy. Once every four years for President or two years for almost all the offices below that, elected officials have to come back and make their case to the voters for what they have and haven’t done and what they promise to do in the future. The voters were clear.
What seems dramatically not clear is what’s going on now.
In Massachusetts, whether you were Scott Brown who’s ending his term now or Elizabeth Warren who’s supposed to pick up the mantle in January, both candidates spoke absolutely clearly for job creation and spoke out strongly against cuts to Medicare. Yet the conversation in D.C. has picked up as if the critical objective is cutting trillions of dollars from the budget, avoiding the supposed “fiscal cliff” (if I had any drawing skills at all I would have a political cartoon of doomsday-sayers with their signs saying “fiscal cliff this way” because without signs you’re not going to see any cliff because a cliff doesn’t exist!). Yes, there has been a downward slide – one that many of us have been trying to fight by stopping the foreclosures, creating real jobs that pay well enough to turnaround our local economies, but the fiscal cliff doesn’t exist. Except to the extent that the folks inside the beltway have created it in their imagination.
Now having stood in the brisk shivering cold reality of the elections, they’ve climbed back into their warm cocoon of delusion. They are ignoring not just what the other side ran on, but what they themselves ran on. They are ignoring what the people of the United States whether they turned out in just large numbers or in historically unheard of numbers like in Massachusetts made very clear: policies that are going to lead to fewer jobs, that are going to cut small businesses, that are going to cut especially Medicare for those who need it, are simply unacceptable. The desire on all sides that the very wealthiest begin to pay their fair share was clear whether you look at Romney’s defense ads behind his connection with Bain or the much more specific public statement of Obama in his commercial as to why we can’t continue these tax breaks. Yet these proposals are the centerpiece on the table for discussion.
You simply can’t believe when you wake up the morning after the election that the conversation inside the DC beltway hasn’t changed. So what’s most critically important for most of us shivering out in the cold reality of regular people’s lives? It is that so long as the folks inside the beltway can live in their cocoon of imagination the rest of us are in deep trouble. We gotta pour some more ice cold water of reality on them and wake them up – even if our next vote is happily far in the future as far as they’re concerned.