Polls show that a significant number of people who might be on “our side” are not going to bother to vote. Some are even switching sides. The big corporations and right-wing billionaires are spending millions upon millions of dollars bombarding them with propaganda on “news” shows, TV ads, setting up phony astroturf organizations and running PR scams to convince them not to vote or to vote for Republicans. They are spending that money because it works. How do we reach them?
There’s no question that everyone reading this is going to vote. You are well informed, you care, you seek out information, and you have found this website. Unfortunately you are not like a lot of people in this country — especially when it comes to the “informed” part. So what can you do?
What can you do?
Here are a few simple questions to put in front of people. Maybe they will help cut through the fog that millions and millions of dollars of nasty corporate-funded smear ads throws in front of people’s faces:
1) Under Bush we were losing almost a million jobs each month. Since Obama’s stimulus we have been gaining jobs every month. Not enough, but gaining. Doesn’t this mean we shouldn’t go back to Bush’s policies?
2) If American government is supposed to be about “We, the People” making the decisions, doesn’t “less government” means less “We, the People” making decisions? Isn’t that just what has happened since Reagan made government smaller?
3) What is the alternative to government? Doesn’t less government mean more big corporations running things?
4) Reagan cut taxes for the rich, and then we had huge deficits. Clinton raised taxes for the rich, and then we started paying off the debt. Bush cut taxes for the rich again, and now we have huger deficits again. Doesn’t it make sense that “cutting the government’s allowance,” as Reagan called it, means the government will have trouble paying its bills?
How about adding some short points in the comments, that we can get out there this weekend, and maybe get a few more people to show up and vote?
How Did We Get Here?
How did we get in this mess? American democracy has had problems from the start. There has always been a tension between the power that great wealth brings, and the idea that everyone should have an equal voice. There were times in the past when great wealth almost completely dominates, and few times when the voice of the people really ruled. There was the Populist movement that grew out of the days of the “Robber Barons,” there were the great social reforms that occurred under FDR, and there was the era of Civil Rights. These were the results of movements that “make them do it.”
For one reason and another Progressives have not yet built the kind of far-reaching, non-party social movement that reaches and persuades large numbers of people to support our cause. This has to happen outside of the electoral process and outside of political parties and has to be focused on year-round persuasion and not on short-term electoral goals. We need to be reaching people and explaining the benefits to them of a progressive approach to their problems and the benefits of one-person-one-vote democracy over one-dollar-one-vote corporatism. In the last few years a lot of work has been done to get this moving. We have built up the blogosphere with its great conversation. Labor unions have modernized and begun efforts to reach o,ut. But now we need to start to see ourselves as a movement, and to understand that we need to reach wider and wider audiences with a message that resonates and explains why they are better off keeping democracy.
Reaching Low-Information Voters
How often do you read, hear or see someone in the big-corporate-run newspaper, radio or TV media explain the benefits of government, taxes or regulation, vs how often you hear about how bad these are? When was the last time you read, heard or saw in a corporate media outlet an explanation of the benefits of joining a union? That’s right, you only get the pro-corporate viewpoint now. In the 1980s the Reagan administration got rid of the “Fairness Doctrine” and eliminated requirements for public-service programming to provide the information necessary to citizens in a democracy. Democrats tried repeatedly passed bills to restore these but Reagan and the first Bush vetoed their efforts and Republicans filibustered their efforts under Clinton. Democrats didn’t even try to restore it under Obama. And deregulation, including the 1996 Telecommunications Act enabled a few corporations to buy up almost all of the country’s information sources. Once they were released from a requirement to serve democracy they immediately stopped serving democracy. Once they were allowed to concentrate media into a very few corporate hands they immediately concentrated media into a very few corporate hands. So here we are.
Efforts to provide alternative sources of information like Air America or starting new TV networks have not been funded for the long term by progressives. Fortunately we have a few shows on MSNBC, like Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Keith Olberman (out of how many presenting the corporate/conservative viewpoint?) And we have the Internet, with sites like OurFuture.org, Huffington Post and Daily Kos. But corporate efforts to undermine Net Neutrality threaten to cut those off from many people. (Please watch Sen. Al Franken speaking on this at Netroots Nation.)
Reaching The Poor
ACORN was a very important part of getting people out to vote, registering millions of voters and helped get them to the polls. All but 7 Senate and 75 House Democrats fell for the right-wing hoax about a “pimp” and voted to defund ACORN. So now there is no ACORN to help get people to the polls.
Many Democrats helped try to get rid of MoveOn, too. They joined Republicans and voted to censure the organization for opposing politicization of the Iraq war.
Cutting off your nose
A lot of people say they want to “punish” Democrats for disappointing things “they” have done themselves, or let happen, or for just basic incompetence. I have a looooong list of my own, and it’s always fun to run through it. Like negotiating against themselves on the stimulus instead of asking for doubled what they wanted to end up with. That way they could be saying right now that they were right that more stimulus was needed. Or letting Republicans hold up the health care bill for so long, only to get no Republican votes anyway. Killing the public option. …
But you have to choose between to options here. Which do you want more, to punish incompetent Democrats, or a better world? (Tough choice, I know.)
We need to rely on ourselves, and go get people out to vote. Door to door. The alternative is frightening. The right this time is even worse than when Bush was President if you can imagine. For those of you old enough to remember the government shutdowns, investigations and impeachment of Clinton, trust me that you don’t want that again.