One of the great old Gershwin songs says, “They’re writing songs of love, but not for me. A lucky star’s above, but not for me.” This matches the mood of much of the electorate as the midterm vote arrives.
The exception is Republican zealots who will turn out in droves to switch the Senate to bloody scarlet in order to make the last two years of the Obama presidency even more gridlocked than the first six. The fat cats are happy. Those responsible for the debacle have largely escaped scot free. Wall Street is back at new highs. Third quarter GDP grew at a 3.5% rate. The Fed’s keeping the money easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.
Meanwhile, the great bottom two-thirds of the electorate is in a vile mood. Pollsters report a pervasive sense by the average Joe and Jane — or to continue the trope, Porgy and Bess — that “the economy is doing fine for the wealthy, but not for me.” Quite right, too. For them good jobs at good wages have not returned. Their kids can’t pay for college without incurring vast debt, often can’t find work after college, and see no likelihood of getting out of the basement and starting a family. Not to mention Islamic nut jobs abroad, Ebola, you name it. Now is the autumn of their discontent.
But here we come to one of the great mysteries of American politics. The broad middle and working classes, the natural constituency of the party of Social Security, Medicare, Headstart, unemployment insurance, consumer protection, environmental protection, safe food and drug laws, infrastructure spending to improve the economy and create jobs, is ambivalent.
They may not vote at all. They may chase a third party Pied Piper to “send a message.” They may turn out half-heartedly for the Democrats. Or they may vote Republican to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo.
I understand that the president and his party tend to get the credit when times are good and the blame when times are bad, but this is an astonishing case of the electorate not seeming to understand who their friends are. They are the victims of a bifurcating economy where income inequality is at an all-time high. And they are about to cast a vote for the party of plutocracy? Yikes!
Has it really escaped their attention that a Wall Street crash fueled by predatory banks making insane loans who were enabled by Republican deregulators was kept from turning into a worldwide cataclysm by Obama?
Apparently so. They also seem not to have noticed that the friends of the malefactors fought the president tooth and nail to gut attempts to regulate banks and hold them accountable and to protect consumers in the future. They did all in their power to cripple health care reform that would improve life for millions and to prevent the enactment of programs to create jobs. They have preserved a lower tax rate on the income of hedge fund billionaires, but have opposed an increase in the minimum wage for those trying to make ends meet on about $300 a week.
Does the average voter really feel life will be better for them if the Republicans are free to impose their will, as articulated by such leaders as Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell or Mitt “Screw the 47% of Takers” Romney?
Given their druthers these worthies would enact less regulation for corporations and would have no problem with them outsourcing all their jobs and moving their headquarters abroad. They are for lower taxes for business and fewer services for everybody else, because we won’t need Social Security, Medicare and education when free enterprise is unfettered and the wealth trickles down from the top one percent to the rest of us. Except their wealth is more likely lately to trickle toward Chongqing or Switzerland than toward Kansas or Michigan.
When it comes to entitlements for most Americans, they are for cutbacks. When it comes to welfare for corporations, they’re all in. Since doing something about climate change might cost businesses a buck, they don’t believe it’s real. Since their kids are in private schools, they don’t care that our public schools are no longer competitive. And since income inequality doesn’t afflict their donors, except in a good way, they don’t think it matters.
It’s a free country, of course, if you can afford it, and every man and woman has a right to their vote, unless they are in a minority, are single women or students who might vote Democratic. Then the Republicans are out to deny them the franchise. But if you are disgruntled because the American Dream is slipping away and you have been hurt by the Great Recession and want to send a message and have a photo ID, go for it.
You can vote against the party that tried to address these problems without perfect success. But you are left with the party that did all they could to prevent solutions from being tried, who think government has no business addressing inequality and who want to make the world safe for oligarchy.
Such a vote will be good for them, but not for me or you. They say everything will be better if you just let them turn the government over to the same people who now control the economy. Maybe. Pigs could fly. But I’ve been preachin’ this sermon to show, it ain’t necessarily so.