2014 Election Lesson: Politics Is About Delivering For Your Constituents

Dave Johnson

Politics is about delivering for your constituents. Underneath it all, this election was a statement by people against an economy that is not working for them.

We’ve heard the story but here it is again.

  • Most people say the country is still in a recession as far as their own life is concerned.
  • All the gains of the recovery went to the top 10 percent.
  • Middle-class incomes are down.
  • The new jobs in the economy pay less than the jobs people lost.
  • People are not able to find good jobs. Lots of people have given up looking for work.
  • Student debt is at crushing levels.
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

The Republican strategy since 2009 was to obstruct any and all efforts to make things better for people, and then campaign on people’s dissatisfaction with things not being better for them. It worked. You can blame Republicans all you want, but the fact is they kept Democrats from delivering, and Democrats paid the price for not delivering. Democrats failed to deliver a better economy and a better life for most people, and voters held them accountable. Staying home and not voting is just as much a form of accountability as voting against Democrats.

However, the core of this is about more than just passing some bills, raising the minimum wage, providing some relief to the long-term unemployed. This is about the need for much bigger, transformational changes in the who-gets-what of our economy. The bigger picture is about deciding who is our economy for, anyway? Republicans say it is for the already-wealthy few. If Democrats are going to deliver for the people they are supposed to deliver for, they are going to have to face up to the core of the problem and do something about it. Until then … well, we saw what happens.

Harold Meyerson brilliantly lays it out in “The Democrats’ Catastrophe and the Need For a New Agenda” over at The American Prospect,

… [T]he Democrats’ failure isn’t just the result of Republican negativity. It’s also intellectual and ideological. What, besides raising the minimum wage, do the Democrats propose to do about the shift in income from wages to profits, from labor to capital, from the 99 percent to the 1 percent? How do they deliver for an embattled middle class in a globalized, de-unionized, far-from-full-employment economy, where workers have lost the power they once wielded to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and wealth? What Democrat, besides Elizabeth Warren, campaigned this year to diminish the sway of the banks? Who proposed policies that would give workers the power to win more stable employment and higher incomes, not just at the level of the minimum wage but across the economic spectrum?

The economy is not going to get better for most Americans until some fundamental changes are made. It’s a structural problem. The system is rigged for the benefit of a very few and their giant corporations. This is what has to be fixed before a better life can be delivered to most people.

It’s the economic paradigm, stupid.

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