Sunday, May 07, 2006

Awake And Sing

It's a play from the 1930s, written by radical Clifford Odets. The review, by Adam Cohen, is in today's New York Times. And it's about the power of ordinary people to affect change when they wake up to their true conditions.

In today's climate of dissatisfaction, where over 70 percent of Americans believe that our country is heading in the wrong direction, there is still the possibility that Democrats won't win back Congress because of simple apathy.

Why do people vote with more passion for the next winner of American Idol than they do for their next senator or representative?

It's because they've been deliberately made to feel disempowered. Ask the average person why he doesn't bother to vote and he'll shrug and tell you that the line at the polling place may be too long and also that he doesn't think his vote will matter.

It's not that he doesn't believe it matters to the outcome of the election. There have been too many close elections in recent times for that. But the average person believes that it doesn't matter who is in office because "they're all corrupt," "both parties are exactly the same," or some variation of the above.

The vested interests in Congress, who do want things to stay the same, want people to believe that. Just as they gerrymandered safe Congressional seats to protect incumbents, many want people to think their vote doesn't matter.

Success at politics is often the fine art of turning out your vote while depressing your opponent's vote.

This year, however, the dynamics are different.

In a year when dissatisfaction has reached a critical tipping point, angry Democratic voters who believe that something is wrong with their country are more motivated to come out to try to change it. Meanwhile, Republicans, who are the majority party, but who are equally dissatisfied, have less incentive to get out. Many ordinary Republican and Republican-leaning independents are also unhappy with our country's direction but if they're not going out to cross party lines, they'll probably stay home. There's not much to defend unless you are truly the base.

Evangelicals will get out come rain, storm, or sleet. For them, the Republicans have actually delivered. They've gotten two Supreme Court justices, a long time ambition. They have been emboldend to push their agenda even harder by an administration that caters to them. And they are proud that they vote a narrow range of "values" issues to the exclusion of anything else, including national security and economic issues. But they are only less than 30 percent of the electorate. Their real influence comes in their ability to swing a really close election. But Democrats have tightly knit, otherwise marginal swing groups too.

The real trick is to keep it from getting that hairbredth close by appealing to a broader segment of centrist voters who do vote both their pocket book and their concern for national security. And this is the year that Democrats have their ear.

The most important thing we can do is to re-empower those voters. We have to convince them that their vote does count and that ordinary people like them not only can make a difference but that united together can make all the difference.


Howling Latina said...

And Latinos who are citizens will overwhelmingly vote for Democrats!

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

From your mouth to God's ear.