According to Gallup, a solid 75% of US citizens want to increase spending on infrastructure, 62% want paid family & medical leave, & 64% either favor or wouldn’t oppose raising the minimum wage to 15$/hour — meanwhile, our “representatives,” believe they know better. While only 51% of congress is needed (in theory) to pass a law (though, in reality, 60% is often needed), neither the senate or the house have found 75%, 60%, or even 51% who are willing to support paid family & medical leave or even a $10.10 minimum-wage — & infrastructure spending has, of course, continued its downward trend.
A Frustrated Majority
About 60% of us want to legalize marijuana. 64% are “worried” about climate change, 65% believe it’s human-caused, & 73% want to prioritize alternatives to fossil fuels — & that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg! 63% support automatic voter-registration, 80% want early-voting, & 63% are in favor of abolishing the electoral college, while 8% don’t care & a mere 29% want to keep it. 61% say the wealthy aren’t taxed enough, 63% dislike the size & influence of corporations, & 64% think big donors have more sway over congress than we do. An overwhelming 86% want a law requiring background-checks to purchase guns & 84% favor a path to citizenship for the undocumented!
Now, considering the fact that the majority supports them, isn’t it a bit strange that none of these things have — hm, what’s the word I’m looking for? Ah! — happened?
The Opposite of Progress
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that 83% say they’re not satisfied with the state of the US & 82% “disapprove” of our congress — but how is this possible? Don’t we live in a democracy? How do so many of them keep getting re-elected, when 82% of their constituents disapprove of them?
The corporations we call “news” media (which also function as major campaign-donors, by the way) & the political establishment that’s fine-tuned to advantage the entrenched 2-party dynasty obviously deserve a large part of the blame but there is another huge problem that we often don’t pay attention to because — well, because that’s precisely the problem! We just aren’t paying attention to what our leaders are actually doing.
A Few Problematic Statistics
Think of it this way: statistically, 82% of the people reading this sentence (in the US) disapprove of the job that congress is doing — but it is also statistically true that only 49% disapprove of their own representatives & senators! Meanwhile, about 96% of congress was re-elected in 2014 — do you see the problem? Logically, the 18% who approve of congress can’t bear full responsibility for re-electing 96% of them and neither can the 49% who disapprove of their congress-people. Most of the votes that re-elected 96% of congress likely came from the 51% who approve of their representatives, which overlaps with at least 33% of those who disapprove of our current congress.
That’s all pretty headache-inducing so, to put it simply —
it’s likely that at least 1 out of every 3 of us keeps voting for politicians who don’t support the kinds of policies we think they support.
There’s nothing stopping the public from checking out the voting-histories of our senators & representatives at websites like GovTrack.us or taking a quick peek at their top campaign-donors at Open Secrets. Congressional records, however, are famously boring and, because most of us didn’t go to law school, we often don’t have the time or the training necessary to decipher every vile tome of inequity & corruption that oozes out of Capitol Hill every day — which means that, like all gaps in the public’s knowledge, this is the perfect breeding environment for sales & marketing…
As I’ve explained in a recent article, the electoral college polarizes voting-behavior and, though the majority would prefer an alternative, it’s challenging for non-establishment candidates to even get on the ballot. Believing no alternative exists, most people vote for the major party that seems closer to what they actually want — but is either party meaningfully closer to supporting the policies that most of us do?
Since the days of FDR, the “democratic” party has made a reputation for itself as the party that supports working class issues, successfully branding themselves as “the champions of popular reform” — meanwhile, the republican party has stylized their politicians as “the defenders of individual liberty” by opposing the bureaucracy & overreach of “big government.”
Both parties have successfully marketed their “brand” of politicians to large segments of the population who now appear to be their “returning customers,” as it were — but neither party seems to actually deliver the policies that make their brand appealing to people.
And yet conservatives — who want smaller government & greater individual liberty — continue to support presidents like George W. Bush, who talk about reducing spending but increase the national debt from $6-trillion to $9-trillion & who talk about “reform[ing] and simplify[ing] the federal tax code” but never act on it.
But this goes both ways — for instance, liberals consistently supported Obama, even as he expanded the Bush-era wars, turned the US into the world’s largest fossil-fuel producer, & went back on his promises to create tough restrictions on lobbyists while accepting millions from them — which is all pretty much the exact opposite of what liberals (& most others, actually) want. Luckily, I don’t have enough time or space in this article to continue listing ways that politicians have betrayed you — but the fact that none of you doubt that I could continue is actually a good sign that our society is waking up to the reality that we do not live in any version of a democracy.
But waking up to it isn’t enough.
We Must Rise
82% of us are already in agreement that our congress is awful — but in 2014 we were already in agreement & we re-elected 96% of the same people, anyway. That happened because 51% of us believe that it’s the other congress-people who need to go & not our own — which means some of us are certainly mistaken but (like all mistaken people) don’t know we’re mistaken. Luckily, being mistaken isn’t difficult to fix — the difficulty comes only when we refuse to wonder whether we are the mistaken ones. If all of us (the majority) examined each candidate & voted against corrupt incumbents & only for those who support the policies we want, then we’d have a congress that represents the majority.
But too many of us continue to vote along party lines for people who don’t represent us. We must stop taking either parties‘ platform seriously because they certainly don’t — republican or democrat, their colorful party packaging is nothing but worthless & irrelevant scraps of paper. Only their actions matter — what policies they cast their votes for, who’s money they accept, & the consistency of their positions means more than anything they say.
To Sum It All Up
Just think about candidates in the same way you think about groceries. At the store, we know that packaging & advertising is almost always misleading — no matter how “fortified” they say it is or however many bright labels they put on it saying “healthy” or “natural” or “made from REAL ingredients,” we usually understand that labels have no power to transform a sack of technicolor, frosted sugar-lumps into a healthy, balanced breakfast. But we also usually understand that some companies have gotten very good at disguising garbage to make it seem like a healthy treat and, unless you’re harvesting your own food (which is a great idea, by the way) the only way to really know is to read the labels.
If the majority of us can put as much effort into selecting our representatives as many of us typically do at the grocery store, we’ll have a brand-new congress in no time. And that’s the moral of this article —
Always read the labels.
P.S. I’ve added a bookstore section where a small, hand-bound book of poetry, called “Hymnal to an Imperfect Universe” is now available to order…
Other Recent Articles by John Laurits
Voting 3rd Party Will Not Elect the “Greater Evil” (9/6) *New!*
How To Destroy Democracy: A Guide to the Electoral College (9/2) *New!*
Social Revolution 101: The Causes of Inequality (8/28)
Media Revolution: Seizing the Means of Story-Production! (8/26)
Why Sanders-Supporters Are Mad (& Why You Should Be, Too!) (8/22)
Why Aren’t Americans More Infuriated? (8/16)
Why Millions Should Refuse the Lesser Evil (8/13)
From the Heart of America: #NeverGiveUp (8/8)
#OurRevolutionContinues: The Path Forward (8/3)
The “Democratic” National Convention (7/27)
Democracy Spring Demonstration, July 25th
The Democratic Convention: #MarchForBernie (7/24)
The Game is Up — #DemExit & the #DNCLeaks (7/24)
About Prayers & Violence (7/17)
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