Defend the Public Interest
Oppose the Democrats and Republicans!
On November 4, elections for Congress, governors and state legislatures will be taking place. All 435 members of the federal House of Representatives and one third of the Senate are up for election, and similar elections occur at the state level. Governors in 36 states are also up for election, including most of the states in the south and Midwest as well as New York and California.
Voter turn-out is expected to be low as many are thoroughly disgusted with the negative campaigning and choice of candidates. This is an indication that the time is ripe to reject the politics of the rich and organize for the independent politics, for a democracy of our own making. All those angered by the negative and anti-democratic character of elections, whatever party you may be associated with, can stand together for democracy by joining efforts to build politics of empowerment of the people. Many independent organizing efforts are going forward after the elections, so join in!
The lack of participation by the majority is not of particular concern to the big parties. Indeed, negative advertising is in part meant precisely to discourage and depoliticize people and keep them from participation. As well, the federal elections are being presented mainly as one of control of the Senate. Republicans need to gain six seats to win a Senate majority. Republicans already have a 234-seat majority in the House and are expected to keep that and add some seats. Democrats currently have a 53-seat Senate majority, to 45 for Republicans and two independents, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Both independents now usually vote with Democrats but King has said he may switch. As well a third independent, in Kansas, Greg Orman, may win. All of this is used to provide endless calculations about possible vote counts, while ignoring that the agenda of government remains an anti-social, pro-war agenda.
All the focus on control of the Senate hides the fact that Congress has been dysfunctional not because Republicans control the House and Democrats control the Senate but rather because both parties no longer function as political parties and power has increasingly been concentrated in the presidency. The Republicans, even with their 234-seat majority, often could not get their own bills passed because of the factions vying for power within their own ranks. Similarly the Senate often could not act, as Democrats would split. Party leaders were ignored. Republican Senator Cruz of Texas is already saying that there will be increased contention in the Senate if Republicans win a majority, including a battle over who will lead the Senate.
The reality is the parties now function as mafia-style cartels contending with each other and loyal to the private monopoly interests that backed them. It is not party machinery that is primarily responsible for funding and winning elections but rather Super PACS and other outside forces — funded by mega donors from among the monopoly billionaires. They pick and choose individual candidates.
In this election there is also a growing readiness to split with the Democrats and Republicans and back independent candidates. The talk of blocking Republican control of the Senate is in part meant to spread fear among the many working people angered with the pro-war, anti-social stand of Obama and Democrats. These voters are ready to break with Democrats and looking to develop alternative, independent politics of the people. The claim that this would mean a “catastrophe” of Republican control of the Senate is meant to spread fear and block this direction. It is a means to safeguard rule by the rich and further their anti-people agenda.
Voice of Revolution urges people to instead work out and stick with their own independent thinking about how to participate in the election in a manner consistent with their conscience and the stands taken everyday to affirm their rights and oppose the anti-social offensive of the rich. Teachers, healthcare workers and many others are standing to defend the public interest and reject demands that are pro-war, anti-people and anti-planet, as the massive People’s Climate March in New York City showed. The broad attack on public education being orchestrated by Democrats is also being confronted, as people organize to defend rights.
Refuse to vote for Democrats or Republicans. Use the elections to build up the independent politics of people’s empowerment. Back third party and independent candidates who support the public interest. Write-in your own name or those of your peers as an expression of your refusal to back candidates who are pro-war and anti-people. The issue is not control of the Senate. It is defending the public interest by building independent politics of empowerment. The control needed is decision making by the people themselves. The politicians of the rich will never deliver that. It is up to us to do so!
While the monopoly media attempts to focus all attention on control of the Senate, it has ignored the reality that whether Republicans or Democrats win majorities, it could be a win-win for President Obama. In a situation where Republicans have the majority in the Senate, the most lkely outcome, it will not be a veto-proof majority (2/3, or 67 votes). The same can be said of Democrats. And this is particularly true given that many votes split both Democrats and Republicans. Thus, whatever legislation may get passed because of Republican majorities in both houses, Obama can veto them. This in turn provides greater justification for executive action. This would be true especially in matters Obama has already said were matters of national security, such as debt-ceiling votes, war funding, etc. Given that a main feature of governing arrangements today is further concentrating power in the hands of the presidency, a Republican majority would facilitate this direction.At the same time, one can expect the increasing rivalries among the ruling class, reflected in the contention in Congress, to intensify.
On the other hand, if Democrats retain the majority, which is unlikely, Obama can claim there is support for his agenda, which also means he can further concentrate power in the executive. And in either case, if Congressional dysfunction continues as it has, which is likely regardless of who controls the Senate, that too is a reason to call on the people to stand behind Obama. He will use the dysfunction to justify more executive actions, whether it be in relation to war, to social security, to Medicare, to education, and so forth.
In this manner, whatever occurs in relation to the Senate, Obama, and the Office of the President more generally, can secure a win-win. This is the actual danger facing the people, as an increase in executive rule means an even more anti-democratic, anti-people and anti-planet direction. It is a danger to the peoples here and abroad and must continue to be the target of fierce opposition.
No to Executive Rule! Yes to People’s Empowerment!
Fund the Process Not the Candidates
A record almost $4 billion will be spent on federal mid-term Congressional House and Senate races in 2014. It includes the governors’ races in 2014 in thirty-six states, including California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin and Texas. Florida’s governor’s race toped $104 million, Illinois’ a record $100 million, Texas $90 million, much of it on negative ads. These funds do not include the tens of millions spent 60 days prior to the election by outside groups not required to report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Total spending by candidates themselves is expected to be about $1.66 billion in all, down from the $1.79 billion they spent in 2010. Super PACs (Political Action Committees) and other political groups — commonly forces that do not even live in the state or district — are expected to spend close to $1 billion, with about 80 percent of it on negative ads. Six of every ten dollars in reported spending by outside groups so far this election has come from Super PACs.
An additional $100 million and more is being spent on “issue ads” that do not name a candidate. These are often done by astroturf groups, fake “grassroots” non-profits posing as advocates for a given cause but actually campaigning for particular private monopoly interests and the candidates they back, conservative and liberal alike.
In most races spending by forces other than the candidate, such as Super PACs, astroturf and party committees, far exceeds that of the candidate. In many races it is double, or more, than that of the candidate. This is an indication that candidate spending caps will not solve the problem of massive amounts of campaign spending and negative ads.
These outside spenders are also indicative of the change in the role of the parties. The state-level parties, which used to be the bulwark of the Democrats and Republicans, play almost no role. And while the Democratic and Republic National Committees still function, they are being surpassed by the role of Super PACs and other outside spenders. This is evident in spending by both, which is down in 2014 compared to 2010. Of the almost $4 billion, the Democratic National Committee will spend about $148 million, a decline from the $176.5 million it spent in 2010 (the last midterm, non-presidential election). The Republican National Committee will spend about $164.9 million. That will be a drop from the $185 million it spent in 2010.
In addition, particular representatives and operatives are developing their own machinery, independent of the parties. Expected presidential candidate for 2016 Hillary Clinton did 45 events in 54 days coming into Election Day, in part to build up her machinery. Current head of the Senate, Harry Reid, who is not up for election, has the “Senate Majority PAC,” which he controls. It was among the top 5 groups buying ads the last two weeks of the election. The astroturf non-profit Crossroads GPS and the Super PAC American Crossroads were also among the top five. Both are machinery for Karl Rove and the Carlyle interests that backed the Bush presidencies. The Koch brothers, also representing oil interests, have a new Super PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund. They have also donated more than $196 million in the last several years to dozens of astroturf advocacy organizations that intervene in elections, commonly with negative “issue” ads.
Overall, like the economy, where power is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, political funding and electoral machinery is also being concentrated in fewer hands.
Recent polls indicate that only 4 percent of voters think any of the politicians will actually keep their promises, which themselves are usually very vague. The massive negative ads also contribute to what is expected to be a low turn out for the elections. Both reflect the growing consciousness among the people that the existing electoral set up and its elections do not serve their interest. The rights of the people are being trampled on, the view of the majority rejected. What is needed is increasing the role of the people, not decreasing it by requiring massive funding just to participate.
To eliminate negative ads and provide a process that involves and informs the public, what is needed is funding of the process, not the candidates. The process needs to be publicly funded — not the candidates, parties, Super PACS or astroturf groups. The process needs to be publicly controlled and in the public interest.
Funding the process means all candidates have equal time in the media to present their views and negative mudslinging and character assassination is not permitted. It means organizing many more public debates and public meetings organized to inform the public and requiring equal time for all to present their platform for solving social problems, like poverty, environmental devastation and war and peace. It means developing a process that would enable working people to present their own candidates from among their peers who would have an equal chance at winning. Taking steps in this direction would block the role of the rich in manipulating the elections while expanding the space for politics and candidates that serve the people.