2018 Or Bust …

Many of us, this writer included, have pretty much placed all of our hopes for the future of this nation on the mid-term elections for 33 senators and 435 representatives on 06 November 2018.  For most of this year, I convinced myself, given the shambles that Trump and the current Congress have made of our federal government, that the mid-terms were a no-brainer … the Democrats would sweep, would carry the day.  Some readers, primarily my friends from across the big pond, however, were less optimistic.  “Maybe not”, they said.  “I wouldn’t count on it”, I heard.  It is easy to kid ourselves, to say that they don’t live here, so they don’t understand.  But the reality is that they sometimes see things more clearly than we do, for they have the benefit of a bit of distance and a much longer history.  The more I study the situation, the more I consider, ponder, scratch my head and lose sleep, the more I am convinced that the mid-terms may not be the salvation for which we are hoping.

I have at least six points of concern:

  • Democratic Party disoganized
  • Russian interference
  • Voter disenfranchisement
  • Lobbyist influence
  • Bannon influence
  • Voter apathy, especially among democrats/minorities

To be sure, the Democratic Party has a few advantages at this point.  The president’s party typically loses seats in midterm elections, and Trump is a historically unpopular president – the most unpopular in modern times. Then there are the encouraging wins for Democrats in Virginia and Alabama special elections recently.  But I think it would be a mistake to take those wins as a sign of things to come, for there were extenuating circumstances in both that may not be replicated in the broader mid-term elections.

A Washington Post-ABC News survey released in April found that a majority of the public thinks the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans. I would agree and don’t think that has changed much since April. The Democratic Party will need to have squeaky-clean candidates next year, ones without a breath of scandal in their past, for there is no doubt that the opposition will be digging deep, spending millions to find “dirt” on every candidate.  Whereas Alabamans were willing to overlook Roy Moore’s pedophilia and sex scandals, it must be understood that so much as the hint of any such scandal in the past of a Democratic candidate will be be a death knell. The Republicans have a propaganda machine in Fox News and Breitbart that cannot be discounted, that is very powerful.

The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable that the Russian government did, in fact, have influence in our election process.  The extent of their influence is, I think, still unknown, but there can be no doubt that they did have an impact, a role in putting a madman in the highest office of the land.  We need to be taking steps to ensure that there can be no outside influence in 2018, but are we?  Given that Trump denies any such interference existed, even though such denial is an obvious and pathetic attempt to cover his own posterior, it is doubtful that any meaningful steps are being taken to protect the integrity of next year’s election.

On May 11, 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity”. Mike Pence chairs the Commission, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serves as the vice chair. This commission was established as Trump claimed, falsely, that there was widespread voter fraud with thousands of people voting twice.  Never mind that he won the election, he was offended that he did not win the popular vote.  The commission also serves as a smokescreen for the real issues that made our election a sham, the aforementioned Russian influence. I have written before about this commission, and the fact that Kris Kobach as Secretary of the State of Kansas, has long called for greater voting restrictions, and in July, the commission demanded that states turn over to the commission all citizen’s voting records. Thus far, the commission has not been notably successful, however the fact that it exists is chilling and may keep some voters away from the polls next November for fear of having their personal information shared.  Additionally, the commission has claimed they will remove duplicate names from voter registries, even though in many cases there may actually be two people legitimately named John Smith.

There is no doubt that big donor money plays a key role in elections and it has been magnified many times over this year, with the large corporations and lobbying groups emboldened to tell members of Congress that if they do not vote as the donors wish, they will never receive campaign funding again.  This is a slam against the democratic process and needs to be checked immediately, but of course, it will not end any time soon.  We cannot change campaign finance rules in time for the 2018 elections, but we must make absolutely certain that we do not support any candidate who is taking large campaign donations from these groups.  The information is public, and one only has to do a little research to find out who is being bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex, the NRA and others.

Steve Bannon has vowed to pursue the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” He has pledged to support and promote candidates that are of the extreme right ideology, as he did Roy Moore in Alabama.  He will, I belive, choose his battles wisely and use any and every tactic to put extremists in Congress next year.  He certainly has the money, the voice, and the resources to get his message through, and poses a significant threat to the democratic process.

And lastly, I think that voter apathy or angst played a large role in the election of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton.  It would make sense that voter apathy/angst among Democrats is even higher now than it was in 2016. One reason, of course, is the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the electoral college.  Another is the Russian influence.  People may think the system is rigged, and their vote doesn’t matter or will not be properly counted.  Minorities have absolutely no reason to vote for a Republican candidate, for the current administration and Congress have increasingly supported legislation and spewed rhetoric harmful to African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and the LGBT community.  But does that mean they will come out and vote for a Democrat?  Not necessarily, for they may find it simpler to simply stay home.

The Democratic National Committee must step up to the plate, must become organized, support only those candidates who are above reproach.  They must generate enthusiasm and their trademark must become the very things that our government is lacking today: transparency, honesty, integrity and equality.  And those of us who have a voice, even a voice that may reach only a few hundred people, must help generate enthusiasm, must help explain the issues, introduce the candidates, and light a fire under the voters. We simply cannot afford to end 2018 with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, for as we have seen this year, they are not working for We The People, but for their own interests.  I say it is time to clean house, but do not for one minute think it is going to happen without a fight.