American politics has so deteriorated that many states and indeed the country suffered near record low turnout for an off year election in 2014. In a piece at Alternet.org titled Americans Are Sick to Death of Both Parties: Why Our Politics Is in Worse Shape Than We Thought, Professor Emeritus Walter Dean Burnham of the University of Texas and my UMass Boston colleague Tom Ferguson see collapsing parties that serve not people, but money.
Professors Burnham and Ferguson argue that “Increasing numbers of average Americans can no longer stomach voting for parties that only pretend to represent their interests.” That seems reasonable. Notwithstanding the recent robust quarterly growth numbers, the real news about the recovery from our 2008-09 near depression is the financial restoration of the top one percent. The Dow flirts with 18,000 and as Burnham and Ferguson point out, “the fruits of the recovery have gone lopsidedly to the very richest Americans.”
Burnham and Ferguson explain that the disaffection voters feel toward the Democrats is largely economic. As Rahm Emmanuel famously proclaimed in 2009, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste; it appears the Democrats wasted the crisis of 2009. Or rather, they wasted it for the bulk of Americans in economic distress. But since the “President and the Democratic Party are almost as dependent on big money … from the 1 percent as the Republicans,” the Democrats economic policies were not wasted on their primary benefactors.
As 2014 was a big Republican year things must be looking up for the GOP, right? Perhaps even enough to retake the White House in 2016. That raises the old saying about the problem of getting what you wish for, because “once in power the Republicans will have to do something.” But the GOP has no answers for a world in which education and infrastructure call out for public investment. Indeed, we already have a clue as to the Republican economic plan. Given the hint of power following the 2014 elections, the Republicans sued their new status to use a must-pass spending bill as a vehicle to make the taxpayers the insurers of risky derivative bets by the big banks.
Read over Burnham and Fergusons’ entire article as a primer on why people are not going to the polls; non-voting would appear to be entirely rational.