Two thousand fourteen will be a great year! So say the economists, prognosticators, polltakers and political consultants.
The latter, of course, have much to gain in 2014.
How about us ordinary folks? When will those of us living on a fixed income or still waiting for the pay raise that does more than stay even with inflation see our living standard improve? What can we do to change the stagnation in the political sinkhole known as Washington, D.C?
Since 2010 the U.S. House of Representatives has been “led” by Republicans. By 2013, all of Congress, Senate and House, had the worst approval rating ever. They couldn’t get anything of significance done. It’s not that our country doesn’t have issues. We do.
The economic recovery is slow (although wealthy stockholders are seeing their wealth soar); job creation could be better; unemployment is still high; education levels continue to fall behind other developed countries; health care costs continue to rise; floods, droughts, tornadoes and other climate “anomalies” continue to wreak havoc across our country and the world; the federal minimum wage needs to be raised; and millions of immigrants living in the U.S. still fear deportation if they are stopped by the cops. Congress can address all these issues. Solutions can be found. So what’s the hang up?
It’s simple — Americans must participate in elections at every opportunity.
Every 10 years, a population census is taken and the results used to “realign” our U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures. This happened in 2010; the result was a redrawing of voting district lines across the country that resulted in creating more “safe” districts for incumbents. It also created more “safe Republican” districts than the voter registration numbers would otherwise have concluded. One result was a Republican majority in the House in 2010 and 2012.
Bear in mind that in 2008, when President Obama was elected, there was also a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. The 2008-2010 Congresses were more productive and popular among voters. However, the election of Barack Obama and the passage of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) caused an overwhelming outpouring of bigotry and fear mongering our country hadn’t seen since the days of Joe McCarthy. The fervor created and financially supported by a cadre of wealthy right-wing benefactors exposed an undercurrent of racism that many thought had been mostly resolved in the 1960s. These extremists, including some elected officials, have tried to destroy our democracy, erase 50 years of progress, deny basic rights to vast numbers of our citizens and hold our country hostage while they ferment fear and misunderstanding through right-wing media and blatant false advertising.
In 2012, roughly 2 million more Democrats than Republicans voted in our country. And yet, Republicans are still the majority in the House of Representatives. The only way the majority of citizen voters has control is when it votes. The math is simple: Democrats are the majority of registered voters, and when Democrats vote, they win elections. When they don’t vote, Democrats lose.
That brings us to California. California has changed its voting process to a “top two” primary. California no longer selects candidates (except for president) by party affiliation. The June Primary (round one) is no longer an opportunity for Republicans or Democrats or Libertarians or Greens to determine which candidate of their party will contend in the November General election (round two). That selection now takes place in June. The “top two” candidates (those two who receive the most votes) in June compete in the November General Election regardless of party affiliation. This process is inherently unfair to “minor” party candidates, especially in statewide offices. Minor party candidates rarely have the resources or exposure that a “major” party candidate can muster.
That said, we know that at this moment in our political divide having parties share responsibility in Washington, D.C., will continue the stagnation. Therefore, it is our responsibility as citizens, voters, adults and thinking and feeling Americans to once again establish a majority of Democrats (or progressive independents) in both houses of Congress. We can then, once again, move our country forward (not backward as some desire). The first round of voting is about five-and-a-half months away. Be sure you are registered to vote. Vote-by-mail is a very simple way to exercise your right. You can register online at http://sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm.
Jim Firth is the chairperson of the Nevada County Democrats.