democracy

“We Should Be In A Rage”

I’m sharing this Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times by Charles M. Blow. It’s important. Americans should read it. And share it. Then ask yourself: do you know people who don’t vote? – and what will you do to make sure they do vote in this year’s elections? So here it is, followed by the link. Bold emphasis is mine. (If I’m breaking any rules, NYT, please let me know.)

We Should Be In A Rage

Voter apathy is a civic abdication. There is no other way to describe it.

If more Americans — particularly young people and less-wealthy people — went to the polls, we would have a better functioning government that actually reflected the will of the citizenry.

But, that’s not the way it works. Voting in general skews older and wealthier, and in midterm elections that skew is even more severe.

As David Wasserman wrote on the Cook Report last year:

“Voters under the age of 30 were 19 percent of all voters in 2012, but just 12 percent of all voters in 2010. Likewise, voters 65 and up were 17 percent of all voters in 2012, but 21 percent of all voters in 2010. Herein lies the biggest danger for Democratic candidates in 2014.”

Now we hear murmuring that Republicans hold a slight advantage going into 2014, not strictly because that’s the will of the American people, but because that may well be the will of the people willing to show up at the polls.

There is an astounding paradox in it: too many of those with the least economic and cultural power don’t fully avail themselves of their political power. A vote is the great equalizer, but only when it is cast.

The strategy here is simple: Break the spirit. Muddy the waters. Make voting feel onerous and outcomes ambiguous. And make it feel like a natural outgrowth of tedium and bickering, and not a well-funded, well-designed effort. Make us subsist on personality politics rather than principled ones.

The greatest trick up the sleeves of the moneyed and powerful is their diabolical ability to render themselves invisible and undetectable, to recede and operate behind a front, one relatable and common. Our politics are overrun with characters acting at the behest of shadows.

These are the politicians to whom we have become accustomed — too much polish, and too much beam — which is precisely the reason they should warrant our suspicion and not our trust, the way one cannot trust a cook with pots too pretty and not burned black on the bottoms.

And yet too many people shrug or sleep when they should seethe.

We should be in a rage over the Roberts court’s seemingly implacable drive to vest corporations with the rights of people and unleash the full fury of billionaires to bend our politics to their will.

We should be in a rage over the widespread attempts to disenfranchise voters, from the gutting of the Voting Rights Act to the rise of the Voter ID movement — a near-naked attempt by conservatives to diminish the number of Democratic voters.

We should be in a rage over Republican efforts, particularly on the state level, to drag the range of women’s reproductive options back to the 1960s.

We should be in a rage over the extraordinary pressures facing ordinary families. According to The New York Times’ Economix blog, college costs have risen over 500 percent since 1985, medical and gas costs more than 300 percent. And, the Pew Research Center reported Tuesday that “in inflation-adjusted dollars, average weekly child care expenses for families with working mothers who paid for child care” rose 70 percent from 1985 to 2011.

And yet, a report last week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that “some 69 percent of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new budget would come from programs that serve people of limited means.”

We should be in a rage over the fact that people in this country can work a full-time job and not earn a living wage.

We should be in a rage that this country’s infrastructure is literally crumbling beneath us. The “2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” produced by the American Society of Civil Engineers, gave our infrastructure an overall grade of D+ and estimated that $3.6 trillion would be needed by 2020 to fix it.

We should be in a rage that we are spiraling toward cataclysmic, irreversible climate change with little interest or effort in averting it, with little coverage and less than accurate coverage.

But where rage should be, there is too often a whimper.

When will we demand the country we deserve: reflective of its people, protective of its people, simply of its people? When will the young and the poor and the aggrieved and the forsaken walk abreast to the polls and then to the public squares?

If we don’t like the government we have, we can change it. If we don’t like the path we’re on, we can alter it.

Democracy is durable, but not incorruptible. The very purity of the concept invites those determined to alter it, to tilt it toward oligarchy, to slowly, imperceptibly if possible, bring it to a calamitous end.

The drift of the boat seems inconsequential until it encounters the falls.

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Link to NYT Op-Ed 9 Apr 2014:  http://nyti.ms/1kMtoTc

Link to featured image:

 

The End (so far)

 

The Easiest Resolution You’ll Ever Keep

Quit smoking? You should. I did. But that’s another post. Lose weight? Get in shape? You should. I’m trying. But that’s another post. Follow Steve’s blog? See how good you are at this?!

Most of the resolutions we make are difficult to keep. We are almost doomed to failure. We know that going in. We forgive ourselves in advance for not making it. There is one New Year’s resolution, though, that you’re not making. No one ever picks this one. But it’s incredibly important. Patriotic. Responsible. Necessary. Oh, and it’s bizarrely easy to do. Failure is damned near impossible. It’s free (in most places). And it feels good.

Register to vote. easy

That’s right. Get yourself registered to vote. If you are an American who has reached the age of 18 and who is eligible to vote, then you have absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not being registered to vote. At the end of this post is a link that will get you registered. You can register online; it only takes a few minutes. I was already registered, but I just re-registered (so I could recommend this way of doing it). I live in Los Angeles, and all that I needed was my Driver’s License (or State ID) number, the last four digits of my Social Security number, my address and date of birth. Presto. Done. I instantly received an email from the California Secretary of State confirming my shiny new status as a registered voter. Different states have different rules, but the Rock The Vote website whisks you through your state’s process. How’s that for an easy-to-keep resolution? You’re welcome.

I’m guessing most who read this blog post are already registered to vote. Once you’ve registered, you’re good to go until you move, or if you want to change your party affiliation. If you’re like me, you vote in every election. Every year, Election Day is the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. We elect presidents every four years. We elect all of Congress and one-third of the Senate in even-numbered years. There are state and county and municipal elections for candidates and ballot measures every year, along with the odd special election to fill vacant seats. And in the months leading up to the General Election in November, there are all those lovely primaries where the parties get to pick their candidates for the final contest.

So, you love to vote and wouldn’t miss it? You find something sacred in this most secular of rites. Whether you live in a sprawling city or tiny town, you love the unique coming together in your ‘polling place’ – the school gymnasium, church hall, fire station or library. You actually wear that “I voted” sticker proudly on your lapel or your smartphone case. Maybe you’re even a bit of a political junkie? Great. But you’re not off the hook. Here’s a resolution for the (small d) democratic overachievers like you: Find someone you know who is not registered to vote, and help her get registered. (You cannot legally do it for another person, but you can walk her through the process.) And then resolve to help her cast that vote in the upcoming primaries and on Election Day. Or in early voting. Or by mail.

Are you reading this and wondering whether or not you are registered to vote? My advice is to assume you aren’t and go through the quick process to register. Even if you were registered, the new filing simply ‘overwrites’ the old one. Can’t hurt. So go ahead, get yourself registered. And then go the extra mile and help someone else you know who needs to register and vote in this year’s elections.

Whatever your politics, whatever your priorities, the 2014 elections WILL have a significant impact on YOUR life and on those you love. I won’t tell you which way to vote. That’s another post. In 2012, 130 million Americans voted for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney for President. That’s a lot of people… but still only 58% of the people who were eligible to vote.

2014 is a so-called “off-year election” because it’s not a presidential contest. It’s “only” the entire House of Representatives, 1/3 of the Senate, governors and legislatures in many states, and ballot measures to determine everything from your sales taxes, minimum wage, women’s reproductive health care, voting rights, gun control, who can marry, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, et cetera. These are not small questions, nor dull topics. Whether you like it or not, you’ve got one or more horses in this race. But voting patterns for off-year elections are long established, and if they hold true in 2014, only about 40% of Americans who are eligible to vote will bother to cast a ballot.

votetwiceThink about that. 40 million people – who voted (D) or (R) for president in 2012 – are likely to just sit out the 2014 elections. Why? That’s another post. THIS post is about how we can change that. It’s not difficult. It costs nothing. We are going to get ourselves registered. We are going to help would-be non-voters get themselves registered. We are going to vote. And we are going to help would-be non-voters to cast their votes.

I am not going to donate or raise money for any candidate or party in 2014. Our political system is drowning in money. But I am going to work like hell to make sure more people vote for the candidates and causes that I support. And you should do the same. Think about it this way: it’s like voting twice. Or ten times, or a hundred. Without the slightest whiff of fraud. BOOM. There are “register to vote” buttons and links scattered all over my blog. Give it a whirl. You can click on the VOTE TWICE image or the EASY BUTTON in this post.