Giving more than a passing thought to the nature of the American electorate and the American polity itself can cause a multitude of symptoms from feelings of futility to acute nausea to direct banging of the skull against a girder. Perhaps all electorates in all democracies are in various ways terribly exasperating, but the rest of them aren’t my problem, or yours.
Beyond the specific outcomes themselves, Americans have a dubious record as decision-makers, whiplashing with seeming capriciousness from party to party and governing philosophy to diametrically opposed governing philosophy in the span of several years, sometimes in a span of two. This reflects the widespread tendency among Americans not bound firmly to either party or a strong ideology, a significant minority of voters as it turns out, to vote completely in the moment, basing their vote on an ephemeral assessment of their personal fortunes, a snapshot of the national condition, what has been absorbed from paid advertising, with its sketchy accuracy, as well as whatever preconceived notions, ideological scraps and abiding undependable truisms they carry around.
For the Republican Party this has been magnificent, particularly in the era of talk radio, Faux News and the internet, where the combo of Americans’ short attention span and the Republican commitment to relentless propaganda in the post-fact era make a sweet marriage. This combination explains why Republicans, after years of enjoying full control of the federal government leading to the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression for which Republican de-regulatory mania and conservative economic polity were directly culpable, and whose unpaid for tax and war spending multiplied the debt and deficits could sweep to electoral victory in the mid-term.
There’s very little reason to have faith in politics in the near future. That is, unless several things drastically change. But the key to that change as it sometimes is, and ideally always would be in democracies such as ours, is the wisdom and knowledgeableness of the voters themselvesf. So well entrenched is conservative policy after thirty years (under Republican and in some cases Democratic administrations), as well as the conservative media apparatus and conservative political machinery and infrastructure that nothing less than social and political upheaval can ever dislodge it. Politics is well and good, but this has been a modern conservatism that apparently turns big, strong Democrats into quivering jelly, even Democratic presidents with electoral mandates and massive popularity.
Educating voters in the most relentless, repetitive, thorough way humanly achievable is what stands between American revitalization and the continuing slouch toward neo-feudalism and a third-rate, banana republic-style social, economic and political structure. Whether this occurs primarily through a new, and powerful progressive media apparatus or a protest movement such as Occupy Wall Street, or some mutation or enlargement of that movement, or through both together, or through any other as yet defined rising up, it is the only way now.
And there is no small number of material facts, realities and verities it is essential as many Americans as possible understand beyond any shadow of a reasonable doubt. There should be no doubt left whatsoever as to Republican responsibility for the economic collapse, a fact of which all should be reminded for perpetuity if necessary. Americans should know how this was accomplished, along with how and why Republicans wrecked the budget with unpaid for tax breaks and war spending and indifference to fiscal responsibility.
Americans should know how historically meager taxes on the wealthy currently are, and how impractical and debilitating the fantasy 18th Century government conservatives propose would be in the modern world. They need to know how dramatic the effects of demolishing unions are on their own wages and pay. They need to be fully disabused of the lies about universal health care systems in every other modern democracy. It’s important for them to be aware how many millions of Americans’ quality of life already is decidedly better as the result of the Affordable Care Act, whether the millions of young adults covered now by their parents private insurance, or Americans unable to find coverage with preexisting conditions, now registered with the federally-funded, state-administered Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) offering them coverage until the requirement that all are covered by private insurance regardless of preexisting conditions kicks in in a couple of years. They need to know that very soon insurance companies will be required to spend 80% to 85% of what is taken in on actual medical care because of health reform.
They need to know how dramatic income and wealth inequality are, and how they got that way and who did it. They need to know the true depravity and horrendous consequences of the size and abuses of the financial sector. They need to be aware of the degree to which corporations rule the government now. They need to know that at least on the basis of initiatives or proposals offered by them when in power, much less that which was actually produced or accomplished, as well as on the basis of the absence of interest or concern expressed by current Republican candidates, the Republican Party has no active concern or interest in improving health care or education, in wage growth or broad prosperity. They need to know that whatever misleading conservative rhetoric has led them to believe, Republican indifference toward the middle class is demonstrated and profound.
Occupy Wall Street has started the ball rolling. Others should keep it rolling, and others join in and build the momentum to the point of social, economic and political transformation the nation and progress require. A revolution is a terrible thing to waste.