A disillusioned voter is no surprise
Recently, the publisher of The Union wrote an editorial decrying the low turnout in Nevada County in the Primary Election. There were many good points in the editorial, the dedication of poll workers, the apparent lack of interest of the younger generation, and the tendency of the elderly to consistently vote.
The one comment which particularly caught my eye was the rhetorical question, “Have people lost touch with our right to vote?”
I would argue that the question should have read, “Has the governing class lost touch with our right to vote?”
As a part-time educator, I am well aware that we teach the electoral and constitutional processes in both the eighth and 12th grades, but we teach how it is supposed to work, not how it actually works.
Examples are plentiful.
The Senate passes an immigration bill, but the House Speaker refuses to even bring it to the floor for a vote. The House refuses to pass a budget bill unless it includes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act resulting in a government “shutdown.”
Under the “advice and consent” provision requiring Senate confirmation of executive and judicial appointments, a single senator can stop the process and under the “filibuster” provision, a term not found in our Constitution, a minority of 41 Senators can defeat a nomination and prevent even a consideration of a particular piece of legislation by the full Senate.
And in an attempt to gain political advantage, state legislatures have been imposing conditions which make it more difficult for certain individuals to vote.
But by far, the most damaging impact on our right to vote has been the increased importance of unlimited amounts of money which can legally be spent to elect candidates.
The Citizens United case opened the floodgates to vast sums spent to influence the political process. Campaign contributors have undue influence on politicians and the decisions they make, and they expect and get payback from those contributions.
The NRA has successfully influenced the defeat of any measure which might reduce gun violence despite the unspeakable instances of mass murders. Norquist’s no-tax pledge hangs heavily over many members of Congress, one of many “scorecards” used to threaten loss of campaign funds.
Business interests have prevented any meaningful overhaul of immigration policy, preferring instead the perpetuation of a low floor on labor costs created by the influx of the undocumented — those same interests prevent any increase in the minimum wage for the same reasons.
Agricultural interests have inflated our costs of both food and gas by imposing mandates for ethanol use.
Trial lawyers prevent any substantive malpractice reform.
Pharmaceutical companies prevent Medicare from negotiating prices. Defense contractors insure the continuation of weapons systems despite even the lack of Defense Department support for those systems.
And small businesses have successfully managed to keep our mailboxes full of junk mail by preventing any rational overhaul of Postal Service delivery practices.
The worst examples of these excesses are the campaign committees run by the congressional leadership of both parties who attract large contributions which they can disburse at will. They insure conformance with party positions on every issue and eliminate any semblance of independence, particularly of new members.
The consequence of these and similar influences on the political process is the exacerbation of income inequality as the powerful simply increase their power to their own benefit at the expense of the less powerful. The typical voter is reduced to sending letters to his or her Congressman, the response to which is usually a form letter completely ignoring the writer’s point of view.
Is it any wonder that the typical voter becomes disillusioned?
Chris Kane lives in Grass Valley.
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