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"The majority of Americans know Trump is unfit to be president, but if they’re not offered a substantive alternative, the passionately ignorant minority will control the elections once again." (Photo: Kyle/Flickr/cc)

"The majority of Americans know Trump is unfit to be president, but if they’re not offered a substantive alternative, the passionately ignorant minority will control the elections once again." (Photo: Kyle/Flickr/cc)

Democrats Can't Run and Win on the Fact That Trump's an Idiot

Voters Want an Alternative, Not Someone to Blame.

John Atcheson

Democrats are marching, lemming-like, towards disappointment in November.  They seem to think that all they need to do is point out that Trump is an idiot, a plutocrat, a liar, and that he probably colluded with Russians in the 2016 elections, and they’ll win.

They’re wrong, and here’s why.

This election will be about turnout, just as 2016 was. And telling everyone how bad the other folks are, didn’t work then and it won’t work now. 

As long as Democrats depend upon the same old corporate and uber-rich purse strings to fund their campaigns, they can’t and won’t do much more than spout the same empty rhetoric around election time, then govern in a way that rewards the fat-cats and corporatists who put them in office.  People are wise to this, so being less bad than Trump and the Republicans won’t generate a large turnout.

What folks wanted then, and still want, is a Party that represents them.  And they know that neither party really does. Oh yeah, the Democrats use better rhetoric, and practice a slightly saner brand of sell-out, but they’re still sell-outs, and it’s the people’s wealth, rights and future they’re selling out.

And as long as that’s the case, they won’t recapture Congress in the midterms and they might not even beat Trump in 2020.  Remember, Trump won with just a little over 27 percent of eligible voters, and Hillary only got around 28 percent.  That means that once again, “none-of-the-above” was the overwhelming winner. 

Because the Democrats are trying to substitute a change in rhetoric for a change in course, the past is likely to be prologue, so let’s look at the numbers from 2016.

  • 65.5 million voted for Clinton;
  • 62.9 million voted for Trump;
  • 6.9 million voted for a third party candidate; and
  • 96 million didn’t bother to vote.

There are nearly 231 million eligible voters in the US, but only 135 million voted in the 2016 election.  Judged against recent turnout rates going back two decades or so, that’s not bad, but historically, it’s well below average, and it lags well behind other democracies.

Before we examine the implications of these numbers, we need to dispatch a popular myth that the Clintonites have been hawking since the election – specifically, that those third-party votes are why she lost.  The reality is, it’s likely they cost Trump more voters than they did Clinton.  Jill Stein – who was to the left of Clinton – only garnered about 1 percent of the vote, while Gary Johnson, a libertarian and closer to Trump than Clinton on many of his positions, got about 3 per cent.  But the fact is, most of these voters had more in common with the no-shows than they did with either Trump or Clinton voters.  Like the no-shows, they were turned off by the two-party duopoly.  Finally, we know that in 33 states, some 1.7 million voters were so turned off by their lack of real choice, they left the top of the ticket blank while casting votes for down ballot candidates – the number would be even higher if all 50 States had provided data.

But back to the no-shows.

Polls show that the major reason eligible voters gave for not voting was that they were not interested in the issues being pushed in the campaigns or they disliked the candidates. And this makes sense, given that there’s been a decades long campaign by the oligarchy to discredit government and glorify the private sector, using wedge issues, sophisticated marketing and branding strategies, and lots of money.

The majority of Americans hold progressive views on an issue-by-issue basis. They support expanding Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and they’re willing to pay for it; they want strong environmental protection laws and aggressive policies on climate change; they favor reigning in Wall Street, big banks, and corporate abuses; they favor strong campaign finance laws, and measures to roll back gerrymandering and voter suppression; they want schools that work, colleges that are affordable; a single payer health care system and a $15 minimum wage … the list goes on and on.

They don’t call themselves “liberal” or “progressive” because these terms have been negatively branded by the oligarchy, and because no one has been willing to package them into a coherent whole.  Sanders was the first to do so, and he remains the most popular politician in America.  Similarly, the Democrat’s victory in Virginia was a result of running candidates well to the left of the Party mainstream.

But the Democrats, for the most part, run from these things, not on them.  They support social justice issues like immigration because these issues don’t threaten their corporate benefactors or their fat cat campaign contributors. This is not to say these kinds of issues aren’t important – they are. But until and unless the Democrats take on the oligarchy, and back a specific progressive agenda, they will have little credibility with many voters.  As a result, many in the progressive majority will stay home.

The Republicans run on hate, greed, envy, fear, racism, xenophobia and a host of other limbic lizard-brained isms – all of which come straight from the oligarch’s playbook.  This appeals to a small, but passionate group who will show up at the polls.

The fact is, the majority of Americans know Trump is unfit to be president, but if they’re not offered a substantive alternative, the passionately ignorant minority will control the elections once again.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, 1948-2020, was a long-time Common Dreams contributor, climate activist and author of, "A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, "WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track". Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson. John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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