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      Becoming Two Countries in 2014

      United by the flag, but divided by its colors. (Photo: Getty 2013)The logic of voter turnout data all but guarantees right-wing Republican congressional victories in 2014 and a sealing of the divide of America into two countries for the foreseeable future. White House operatives privately acknowledge that GOP gerrymandering plus low turnout make 2014 a war to keep the Senate Democratic and show gains while losing the House. There are eight battleground Senate seats where Mitt Romney won the popular vote in 2012 and incumbent Democrats are either retiring or vulnerable to defeat. 

      Even if Hillary Clinton manages to win in 2016, the battle for the House will favor the GOP since the current gerrymandered seats will remain intact until 2020, or even 2022. Assuming continued Democratic control of the White House and Senate in 2014, the opportunity to take back the Roberts Supreme Court may not occur until the next presidential term, as Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia are both 77.  

      President Barack Obama was not wrong when he promised a single "red, white and blue America" in 2008. That is what a majority of registered voters want, but he under-estimated the white sea of hate that would be generated from him among Republicans. His electoral advisors concentrated their brilliance on the national electoral map more than the states where Republicans took over in 2010.

      Joined by a right-wing Roberts Supreme Court and funded by the likes of the Koch brothers, the Right is consolidating its power on a scale not seen since the Jim Crow era of the Dixiecrats. Progressives, concentrated in Democratic-majority strongholds, will have to think strategically about how to save constituencies which have being left behind enemy lines for most of their lives. 

      Thanks to Howard Dean's Democracy for America, campaign resources are being invested in Virginia's legislative election this year, with Iowa, Pennsylvania and Michigan to follow. These potential wins could minimize losses in the long term attempt to salvage the 2010’s from a major Republican counter-attack on the Thirties, Sixties and the Obama era. Unfortunately, the failure already has been cemented by the reapportionment process. 

      The national Democratic strategy, such as it is, is to paint the Republicans as completely irresponsible, even insane, in an effort to encourage defections among moderate, white, voters and stimulate turnout among worried Democratic voters. While this strategy may be working among moderate voters, it also strengthens the Tea Party in the primaries of Republican districts and states. 

      The cold facts are these: in presidential election years, voter turnout ranges between 50 and 60 percent, while in mid-term elections it's in the high-thirties. In 2010 turnout was 41.6 percent, meaning a disproportionate racial and economic minority took power in the House of Representatives and also gained control of the governors’ post and both legislative houses in 12 additional states. (See Elizabeth Drew's, "The Stranglehold on Our Politics", for a concise summary.) The behavior of young voters, ages 18 to 29, is a stunning illustration of the pattern. According to the Center of Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, in 2008 youth turnout was 51 percent, which then it plummeted to 22.8 percent in 2010, before trending back to 45 percent in 2012. 

      In 2010, while the Democrats won the popular congressional vote by slightly over 50 percent, GOP candidates were able to win 54 percent of the House seats while losing by 1.4 million votes overall. In Pennsylvania, for example, Democrats won the popular vote by 83,000 but the GOP wrested a 13-5 advantage in House races. In Michigan, Democrats led by 240,000 votes but the GOP took nine of 14 House seats. 

      Roe v. Wade "may be doomed", writes Drew. The Voting Rights Act already is badly gutted. New state laws are being promulgated in the swing states of Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio to make registration and voting as difficult as possible. It appears that any federal action on immigrant rights will include a delay the path to voting for longer than a decade, preventing several million Latinos from voting, while a military "surge" is being implemented at the southern border. Federal marriage equality benefits for LGBT couples may be jeopardized in states where gay marriage is banned.  North Carolina, an Obama state in 2008, turned Republican by 2010, and is swiftly implementing new restrictions on abortion and voting rights despite massive protests. Arizona continues to be ground zero for vigilantes in the war against undocumented immigrants, and has succeeded in erasing Chicano Studies from state curriculums. Since 2010 alone, 178 new anti-abortion measures have been adopted or are in the works. Michigan's gerrymandered legislature has successfully passed a right-to-work law. Twenty-seven states are resisting the expansion of Medicaid, and the majority are refusing to set up the insurance exchanges authorized by Obamacare. Those states are becoming "abortion-free zones", right-to-work states, and bastions of a resurrected "sovereignty" for whites and business interests on the defensive. Public schools will struggle for resources in one America, while re-segregation and home schooling are completed in the other. As for the overriding crisis of climate change, the crisis of "two Americas" means that progress will occur through federal regulation combined with state action. The rest of the country will remain a Coal Zone filled with droughts, wildfires and official climate denials.

      There happens to be some "good news" in this polarization, since the libertarian Right tends to oppose foreign military interventions and Big Brother spying, while supporting the right to be stoned. A de facto coalition of the libertarian Right with the liberal Left has made progress possible on these important fronts. The Right’s hatred towards Wall Street equals that of the Left. But the chasm on social justice is widening. Young people attracted to Rand Paul, and Ron before him, are ignoring the fact that libertarians would roll us back to the entire system of lunch-counter segregation that was the focal point of the civil rights movement. The white "right to refuse service" prevails in their thinking over civil rights and due process protections. 

      There is no getting around the deep streaks of male chauvinism, Christian Triumphalism, plain racism, and market fundamentalism that mark so much right-wing rumination. Those divides are being institutionalized. Using the tools at their disposal, the right-wing Republicans are not trying to "take over" the United States as much as carve out a virtual country of their own based on states' rights and resistance to the national governing majority. They want to be able to live in an America where Barack Obama is a bad memory of an illegitimate president. 

      Can anything be done about this? In the short term, it is imperative that Democrats join Howard Dean in trying to retain their Senate majority and make gains against the gerrymandered legislatures. They should support Attorney General Holder in the courtroom battles against voter suppression. They should help make Obamacare succeed in as many states as possible. They should refuse to employ the deceptive terms "red" and “blue".

      2016 will be a historic turning point as an American multi-cultural democracy steadily evolves on the basis of a massive demographic shift. Progressives cannot retreat into enclaves as long as millions of Americans are abused in zones under pro-corporate Republican rule. Regulations established by the Obama administration must be implemented with the full force of the law in every state, not simply half the states. Progressive models can and should be erected in those states which become, in Justice Brandeis’ expression, "laboratories of reform", with climate change regulations being the clearest example. Battles will rage over voting rights, women's rights, climate and environmental regulations and immigration between now and 2016. The 2016 election will become a historic referendum on the future of America affecting the entire lifetimes of the younger generation coming of voting age.


      Research by Emma Taylor, Research Assistant at the Peace and Justice Resource Center.

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      Reader Comments (13)

      This will not end until a Democrat-dominated Supreme Court declares partisan gerrymendering to be unconstitutional, leading to California-style commissions that will draw sensible district lines.

      October 1, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoeff

      Interesting. During the California prison hunger strike, when I was reading comments by the hateful trolls on your articles and others, I came across a complaint that California prisoners could see a doctor or a dentist whenever they pleased, and how many other Californians could do that??? Not sure if it's true, but if so he's got a good point, of sorts. It's not surprising that a society at war with itself over whether basic health care should be a human right would also have an incarceration rate so many times that of the rest of the world.

      I think I may also understand your allegiance to the Democratic Party, now that I finally read the Port Huron Statement after all these years. ""An imperative task for these publicly disinherited groups, then, is to demand a Democratic Party responsible to their interests. . . "

      I've been a registered Green for about ten years and am constitutionally unable to turn back, but I vote for Dems when there's no Green in the race and I'm not so disgusted that I have to vote for one of my cats, Wanda and Princess. Both are protected by the 1998 Hayden Act, thanks to your diligence in the state legislature. Thanks again for that. I let a girl friend know, the other day, that her doggie's protected by the Hayden Act, so Democrats obviously do some good stuff. She's a Dem voter like yourself.

      October 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Garrison

      Thank you, Tom. A truly useful piece. I'm forwarding it to many friends in California and across the country.

      How can we progressives enter into an ongoing dialogue with those ostensibly well-meaning Ron/Rand Paul supporters who are justifiably upset over any number of government abuses the Democratic leadership refuse to address? To me, progressivism is common sense. Those people see their solutions as common sense, too, but seem to have lost faith that law and regulation can better moderate human behavior than can the market and individual moral compunction. Through discussion, can't we find our commonalities and then agree on certain legislative backstops and together put an end to such things as needless war and Wall Street-generated economic inequality?

      October 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJon Williams

      How can the Democrats increase voter turnout and gain the support of the majority of Americans, who are, after all, being crushed by Wall Street, its "free trade" front group, the exporting of American jobs and importing of visa workers, high unemployment, no job security, no benefits? When you think about it, the answer is obvious: become the political party dedicated to serving the interests of the working people. Probably 70% of the people in this country have been devastated by economic policies started under Reagan and continued to the present, which include cutting taxes for the rich. Help them if you want their votes.

      The problem with the Democrats isn't that the Republicans are so awful, it is that the Democrats are so similar to Republicans, other than on a few social issues. Their campaigns are aimed at one group: the "middle class," by which they mostly mean white upper middle class males who live in the suburbs. You never hear a democrat on the campaign trail talking about the working class, women, minorities, the poor, inner cities. They serve Wall Street, they worship free trade, and they do nothing to help working people.

      In fact, it does seem that their obsession about winning the next election is considered a legitimate one. But what their obsession should be is how can we put 20 million unemployed and underemployed Americans back to work? How long do they expect people to wait before help arrives? If they can't get a law through Congress, they should do exactly what they do when they want something for themselves, such as to be re-elected: they go out town to town and rally the people, get the citizens involved. Their excuse for spending their time soliciting bribes is that they need to get re-elected. But it's all so circular, and serves so few while the business of the working people is always ignored.

      The democratic party became the party of Wall Street under Clinton (who received enormous amounts of money from banks and wall street, and foreign interests, when he left office). You can't expect citizens to get excited about the democrats when Obama has private meetings with Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein every month, and when every economic advisor he chooses is stamped on the forehead with the logo from Goldman Sachs. Why didn't Obama bring in Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, Joseph Stieglitz, some of the other more liberal economists, to advise him on economic recovery? The feds give $85 Billion each month to Wall Street and the banks to prop them up, but nothing for the unemployed, low wage or underemployed Americans.

      The democrats have chosen to be the party of Wall Street and War. Just like the Republicans. They fight over territory the width of a toothpick. Should the democrats simply bomb the sh*t out of Syria, or should they get congress to sign on first? This is the level of dispute between the two parties. Should they shut down every single public school all at once, or do it slowly starting in poorer (and darker) neighborhoods? Let's ask that great liberal democrat Rahm Emanuel.

      What needs to happen is that true progressives have to create their own platform. This is what we want, and if they want our vote, they need to commit to supporting our platform. $12/hour minimum wage, for example. A full employment law so that anyone who loses their job reports in the following Monday and is either sent out to work somewhere or sent to school to update their skills, but in either case they get a living wage. No more wars of aggression, period. No more arms dealing to foreign governments, and limit foreign aid to people-to-people assistance to poorer nations, such as by helping people develop their own agricultural system (without GMOs), clean water systems, hospitals, schools.

      We need to rescind the free trade agreements and start over, only allowing any trade agreements that do not negatively affect working people in this country. Ban all imports while allowing domestic businesses to get back up and running and protecting them from competitive products made with slave, prison, and child labor. Grow our own food, make our own cars, convert to solar and wind and get off of oil and gas, become more self-sufficient and less environmentally destructive.

      Limit or eliminate the h1b visa program which serves solely to allow the tech industry (and hospital owners) to import foreign labor to do jobs for less money than they would pay an American. We need social security taxes assessed on all income, including capital gains, and the pay-out must be increased to reflect the fact that few workers today will get a pension. We need to invest in public education, save our schools, and guarantee our kids free college education if they academically qualify.

      I honestly wouldn't mind big losses in 2014 for the democrats. Either it would wake them up or destroy the party, either of which would be preferable to the current situation. If the democratic politicians are content with a 10% public approval rating, they should stick with their current policies. If they want to serve the country, they need to stop taking money from Wall Street and start working for the rest of us.

      October 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNABNYC

      I left a comment on "Becoming Two Countries in 2014" yesterday which may not have been publishedd because it sounded snide, but I didn't mean it that way. I really do appreciate the 1998 Hayden Act and all sorts of other things you've done all your life. I just can't believe in the rehabilitation of the Democratic Party, though I have a lot of respect for a few Democrats like you and Alan Grayson.

      I was feeling particularly cynical after arguing my case against Deutsche Bank in the First District Court of Appeals yesterday because it's so obvious that Democrats lack the political will to change the law in a way that would stop the cycle of disastrous financial crime waves committed by the likes of Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, etc. Obama has surrounded himself with the most recent financial crime wave's principle architects and beneficiaries, including his Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and his key ally Bill Clinton. President Obama's first campaign received so much financial support from Goldman Sachs that no one should've been surprised when he insisted on the bailout of AIG which had insured Goldman's predatory lending, mortgage securitization, investor, and insurance fraud scheme.

      October 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Garrison

      The real problem is that we are not a democracy, of course, but a corporate plutocracy.

      One thing successful corporations are really good at is marketing. And, with the Citizens United decision, corporations are free to spend and promote whatever will help their "bottom line."

      So, half of the problem is their ability to spend to control the polis, and the other half is that people can manipulated to vote against their own self interest. It truly is an amazing proof of the failure of humanity to embrace the concept of the common good and to insist on the common good as its goal.

      October 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Klinger

      NABNYC said it all.

      The Dems, with the exception of their liberal faction, which is relatively small and totally powerless, are basically the junior varsity of the Repubs, thanks to people like the Clintons and now Oshama.

      There are certainly differences between the parties, there must be, after all, for the show to go on. But on the major issues of free trade, war, empire and Wall Street, both serve the same masters.

      If Libs are waiting for 2016 and see Hillary as their savior, then 30 years of voting for the lesser of two evils will have given those who believe in such strategies their just desserts.

      October 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermichael nola

      Hillary Clinton for pResident? Really? After her husband sided with the Republicans to gut banking laws and gut the manufacturing industry with free trade agreements, why should anyone ever trust a Clinton again?

      And let's not forget that both corporate parties always votes in overwhelming bipartisan unity without any discussion for unconstitutional bills like the US Patriot Act, FISA, and the US Military Commissions Act, as well as for toxic farming, Monsanto, corporate welfare for the fossil fuel industries, etc.

      Of course, when anyone suggests third party candidates, they are immediately shouted down with the ridiculous notion that a vote for a third party is a wasted vote and a vote for the Republicans or Democrats, depending on who is doing the shouting.

      No wonder people don't want to show up and vote!

      A vote out of fear for the lesser of two evil corporate political parties is the wasted vote and a vote for evil.
      A vote out of courage for a third party is not a wasted vote and a vote for true democracy and true representation.

      October 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Schmidt

      We have found in L.A. that the billionaires and their cohorts cannot take the light of day as the disinfectant. Documents and using reason have put a serious crimp in them here lately. We have won three big ones against them recently without very much money. It can be done. Here the real money flows and yet they were stopped and they lost. They no longer control the LAUSD board of education anymore. 5 lifetime teachers now do that. Investigations are coming down on Title 1 and the total fraud of the iPads. I have 5 different prices in one power point for the same thing alone. Is that credible and they state that they will cost no more than $200 with a 5 year guarantee and then they approve $1,000 each with a three year guarantee. $200 gives you an extra $26 million/year just on the textbook account and another $60-70 million/year on the instructional materials and supplies account instead of the iPads at $1,000 each being a negative $254 on the textbook account for a loss of $139 million/year. $139 + $26 = $165 million/year on the spread. Would you rather have an extra $26 million on your budget or a $139 million loss/year on your budget is the question not including the extra for the keyboards.

      October 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Buzzetti
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