Two of the most vexing issues for both parties in this election are structural inequality and the lack of income mobility. These issues ignited passions on both sides of the political divide and they could connect voters to the elections perhaps on par with 2008. President Obama gets it (some would say, finally) and in a campaign ad, he says, “Don’t sit this one out!” I have never been in complete accord with President Obama, but, this time, I am. Unarguably, every American of voting age, especially within the middle class, is invested in the outcome of the 2012 elections because there is more at stake than just the election of a President. This next national election is about the future of this country as we know it, or we thought we knew it. This is not hyperbole; this is fact.
Here is the future as seen by the 1 percent. They believe they are close to enshrining the idea that “massive inequality and exploitation of people was just the price you pay for progress.” This belief is cancerous at its core, but it is pervasive among the Republicans on the Hill. The 1 percent is mounting an aggressive campaign to put in place a White House occupant and a Congress that reinforces this idea. What is scary is they are close, which is why the President says we cannot sit this one out. What the 1 percent and the conservatives fail to grasp, however, is this: the harder they push back against the 99 percent, the greater the leverage they confer upon the forces for change. Their push back is uniting the Occupy Movement and the 99 percent. These are the real stakes in the 2012 elections. Should the 1 percent prevail, it would take nothing short of massive civil unrest to reverse this outcome, and even then change could not be achieved immediately.
The Occupy Movement and the 99 percent know this country is perched precariously at the edge of a dark and undesirable future. They know that the forces of the super-rich and the radical conservatives that brought us “contemporary America” are determined to abolish our social safety net and refashion this country so that it more closely resembles America of the 18th century, when birthright, wealth, and race determined your place in society and, largely, your future. Now that Gingrich is the Republican frontrunner, his campaign rhetoric suggests he would be comfortable in this world as well.
For more than two centuries, including a bloody civil war and other struggles for equality, Americans have striven, albeit haltingly, to perfect their democracy and to share it with the world. Its proudest achievement was the creation of a strong, integrated, and vibrant middle class. In large measure, this country has been successful — the ultimate testament to what has been the most successful democracy ever. The point is, that proud history no longer speaks to the future most Americans desire.
The most powerful weapon the electorate has is their right to vote. Their enemies know this, which is why the 1 percent generously finances the election of public officials whose primary obligation is to preserve the idea of the 1 percent’s right to rule. If the electorate is to restore public accountability, it has to be now. Americans are increasingly aware that their interests are no longer represented by many of their elected officials, particularly in state houses and in the U.S. Congress. This development is as direct a threat to democracy as the attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago. This nation’s response then was immediate, coordinated, and effective.
The weapons chosen to fight this new danger have to have real deterrent value: the ballot box, the U.S. Constitution, and the vigilance of the electorate. Those who are disappointed in President Obama are justified in their disappointment. Those who rightly suggest the Republican Party has been captured by the “crazies” are also right. Each has to weigh inaction against its probable effect on the future. This is still the good ship America and our obligations to defend it extend through the ballot box. Then there is the U.S. Constitution.
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, urges Americans to support a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s infamous 5 to 4 decision in the Citizens United case. He is on to something here, even as cumbersome as the process will be. The deterrent value of an amendment that would be anathema to the interests of the 1 percent cannot be underestimated. Constitutional amendments are serious business and, in this instance, merit the full consideration of every American who calls this country home. If you believe in your birthright, if you anchor your future in what you hope will be the promise this country offered generations past, you would vote for change. You will support aggressive citizen protests, and you will become an intellectually armed and dangerous advocate for a different tomorrow — vastly different than the future proffered by the 1 percent. Money cannot buy this kind of opponent. Money buys those of weak character, who are self-directed, and addicted to wielding power over others.
Also at stake are the consequences of the vote. Only the electorate can return value to the ballot. A simple, expedient way to select candidates for the House and Senate is a litmus test. Serious candidates would pledge in writing to support an amendment to rescind the status of personhood for corporations. If candidates were willing to sign a “no new taxes” pledge for Grover Norquist, why not a pledge that actually restores legitimacy to the vote?
The l percent know the linchpin to the success of either side in this struggle for control is the vote. Their surrogates at the state level have chosen selective disenfranchisement as the preferred approach to neutralize the probable impact of the votes cast by minorities, the elderly, and the poor. This is another tactic that reaps great dividends.
Through the omnipresence of FOX News, persuade a community of loyalists that the progressives have invented the problems of concern to them. Convince them that their ideals and vision of America will be best served by continued loyalty to a slate of issues and a platform of candidates supported by the far right. Persuade enough people to vote against their own interests and you have laid the foundation for American Fascism.
Only the ballot threatens a change in Washington and voters have to intend consequence to ignoring their vote while giving a voice to that threat. Bear in mind, members of the 1 percent enter the voting booth as everyone else does: individually. Their numbers are magnified only when they purchase the allegiance of candidates whom the voters elect. The American people must elect those who will remain connected to their voters. Candidates with real integrity are out there. Their problem is they cannot compete against candidates financed by big SuperPac money. Take the power from expensive and misleading campaign ads and you will elect officials who respect the voters and the power of the ballot box more than the financial contributions from the 1 percent. It is as simple as that.
After the nominee of the 1 percent has been defeated next November, only the first phase of the electorate’s commitment to change will have been completed. The real work follows immediately thereafter when the White House and the Congress have to set about the process of actually governing on our behalf. Success will require the sustained vigilance of the 99 percent.