When it comes to understanding what the recent election means, we need to consider more than the immediate effect on progressive and environmental issues.
First off, let’s start with the basics. What is it about the recent election we want to explain? Here’s a couple of facts from http://prospect.org/article/one-reason-democrats-lost-so-big-midterms-exceptionally-low-voter-turnout:
McDonald’s current estimate of 2014 voter turnout: a dismal 36.3 percent of the voting-eligible population (VEP). This is the lowest rate of turnout since 1942, immediately after the entry of the United States into World War II.
David Wasserman, Loren Fulton, and Ashton Barry at the Cook Political Report have tabulated the national House popular vote across all 435 districts. So far they have counted 5.1 million more votes for Republican candidates than for Democratic candidates out of 75.0 million votes cast, a 6.8 percent margin.
[end excerpt from Prospect]
Here’s a way to express the result of the election in terms of environmental policy for the next two years: “We the passengers of the Titanic just elected a crew that doesn’t believe in icebergs.” That comes from
There’s a simple way of describing the general failure of the Democratic Party: “Democrats failed to inspire key demographic groups that typically turn out in lower numbers for midterms – minorities, single women, and young voters.” This comes from http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/DC-Decoder/2014/1105/Midterm-elections-results-Why-Republicans-crushed-Democrats-video
From http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/11/05/what-really-went-wrong-for-democrats/, we find a specific description of this failure. It is “… a failure to connect with these voters’ [persuadable voters, ones outside the ascendant Democratic coalition] economic concerns. At the root of these concerns, Mellman says, are stagnating wages and the failure of the recovery’s gains to achieve wider, more equitable distribution.”
According to http://themoderatevoice.com/200239/republicans-won-despite-wrong-issues/, “Most voters don’t know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process. So all they saw was that the man in the White House wasn’t delivering prosperity — and they punished his party.”
That’s kind of an arrogant way of seeing most voters. It implies a discussion among the elite composed of those who do know about policy details and understand the legislative process. The better way to see it is understanding that people who focus exclusively on policy details and the legislative process can fail to notice how corrupt the legislative process is and how the whole range of business as usual polices indeed do not deliver prosperity.
Therefore, a 36.3 turnout means that 63.7 percent of the voting-eligible population did not see any candidates worth voting for. Moreover, we can take it to mean that 63.7 percent CORRECTLY did not see any candidates worth voting for. When we look at the average margin voting for Republicans, it means that, in round figures, 19 percent of the voting eligible population voted for Republicans, 16 percent voted for Democrats and another 1 percent voted for candidates outside the two-party system.
It’s a massive failure of our democracy, and not for the first time. It fits with the general pattern of elections in the United States for decades, with the long-term trend being smaller and smaller minorities supporting winning candidates. What does support the winners, both Republicans and Democrats, is literal billions of corporate money. Laurence Lessig has a lot of worthwhile ideas about corporate money, but Money is not the whole story.
As Harvey Wasserman puts it, “In analyzing this latest electoral debacle, our Orwellian corporate bloviators avoid like the plague any mention of corporate money or imperial war.
But like LBJ in Vietnam…Afghanistan and Obama’s other wars have gutted his presidency and all he might have been. They’ve drained our shrunken moral and financial resources. They’ve turned yet another Democratic harbinger of hope into feeble corporate cannon fodder. They’ve battered and alienated yet another generation of the progressive core.”
For the Green Party, the obvious problem is the tiny percentage of votes. The roughly 1% of support from the voting-age population is split among Green, Libertarian and other parties. For Greens, support at the ballot box is just some fraction of 1% of those eligible to vote, or about 1% of the minority of people who turned out to vote.
Let’s look, for instance, at our “worst” result for GPMI, at the top of the ticket this year. In round figures, our candidate for Governor got 15,000 votes, for about 1/2 of one percent of the total vote. Paul said that he is disappointed. We could look at this result and conclude that, as a party, we are just not particularly effective or influential, and then we could all be depressed together before we just give up.
In the week before the election, polling reported by the major media said that “the Governor’s race is too close to call,” implying that Schauer had a real chance at winning. The anti-republicans in this state had no reason to worry about the Senate race, but were no doubt thinking along the lines of “every vote counts for getting rid of Snyder.” That made this particular statewide office the most contested for this election.
In the event, Schauer got 47% of the vote and Snyder got 51%. The margin was 128,000 votes in Snyder’s favor. It turned out to be not really that close; certainly not close enough to expect different results from a recount. Between them, the business as usual parties got 98% of the vote for this office.
One of the things this election tells us – and I think it is the most important thing – is that we have roughly 15,000 hard-core Green Party supporters in Michigan. In 2012, Jill Stein got almost 22,000 votes for less than 1/2 percent of a much larger turnout. 4.7 million people in Michigan voted for President in 2012. Only 3.2 million voted for governor this year.
These hard-core supporters are all across the state. We can look at the detailed, county-by-county results at http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/election/results/14GEN/02000000.html.
There are 18 in Alcona County. There are 221 in Berrien County, for good reason, because we have actively been supporting Rev. Pinkney there. There’s 127 in Eaton County, southwest of Lansing. There’s over 1000 in Kent County; over 300 in St. Clair, 124 in Van Buren, and so on. Just look at the list and think about what should be possible in your county.
We should be able to recruit 1,500 of these 15,000 hard-core supporters into actual dues-paying members of GPMI by 2016. That would just be 10%. Moving from the 100 or so (and I think that’s a generous estimate) dues-paying members we have now to 1,500 or so in the next year may seem an unrealistic goal – and yet, the potential is there. In 2015, we collectively have the possibility of meeting and talking to tens of thousands of people just from circulating petitions to put banning fracking on the ballot.
It’s hard to tell what other issues will give us the opportunity to meet supporters and sympathizers; water shutoffs, flooding, another wave of foreclosures, new pipelines, disaster on old pipelines, a spike in unemployment, intensified wars for oil – this society is so much in crisis that there are more opportunities than we want. The combination of neoliberals and outright reactionaries in charge of our government are certain to continue with austerity and repression for all. Whatever comes up, we’ll be participating in protests, strikes and other sorts of demonstrations.
If we all remember to be seen being green – for instance, wearing a hat, tee shirt, button or bumper sticker naming the Green Party – then we have an opening to mention our platform and MOST IMPORTANTLY ask people to join us. If we have 1,500 or so active members going into the 2016 election season, then we can expect to make a much more significant impact on the election.
To repeat – the potential is there. There are literal thousands of people in Michigan who have already supported our candidates in the face of a good deal of pressure to do otherwise. Our focus for the next year should be on finding and recruiting them.