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 Residents watch the sixteenth annual Harper Street Parade on July 4, 2018 in Newberry, South Carolina. The event, beginning as a small bicycle gathering with less than thirty children, attracted 4,000 people last year. (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Listen Up Voters – If You Want Change, You Can't Keep Voting for the People Resisting Change

A Fourth of July message for fed-up Americans

John Atcheson

The evidence that people are fed up with politicians and political parties is overwhelming. For example, the Smith Project found that nearly 80 percent believe that both political parties “…are too beholden to special interests to create any meaningful change.”  And a recent poll found that just 35 percent of eligible voters think the Democrats believe in anything.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party—which for over a decade has numbered less than 30 percent of eligible voters—and despite its short term successes, is destined to shrink, leaving behind a dying husk composed of elderly, the disaffected, bigots and xenophobes who are being duped to vote against their own interests by oligarchs, who take the people’s nascent—and justified—anger and focus it on “others”—you know, blacks, browns, immigrants, gays etc. etc.  In the short term, conservatives are playing the blame game, and it’s working.

But regardless of political affiliation, the one belief most Americans share is that government no longer represents them.

The people are right, of course. Credible studies like the one conducted by Gilens and Page show that democracy is dead in the US and the country is effectively an oligarchy. And the oligarchs have used this power to give themselves a huge pay raise— The top 1 percent now have twice as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, a level of inequality not seen since the gilded age.  

"The one belief most Americans share is that government no longer represents them."

No wonder people are angry.

But here’s the thing—“we the people” keep sending the very same politicians who created these problems back to Congress.  In 2014, 95 percent of incumbent Senators were reelected, and 96 percent of House members were. This is a bipartisan problem.

Hey voter, here’s what you say you want—but here’s what incumbents have given you

As we move into the midterms, polls show that the most important issues to voters are:

  • Health care costs with a majority favoring preserving the ACA or adopting single payer;
  •  The economy, particularly jobs paying a living wage, a higher minimum wage and more equitable tax policies;
  • Stricter gun control laws;
  • Fairer immigration laws; and
  • Getting the money out of politics

But the politicians in Washington have been moving in the opposite direction for decades, and it’s gotten worse under Trump and the current Congress.

Instead of strengthening health care or pushing for a single payer system, they’re dismantling what limited health care protections the ACA afforded.

Instead of making our economy more equitable and just, they passed a giant tax give-away benefiting the ultra rich and corporations, refused to increase the minimum wage, and rolled back regulations protecting people’s health, their foods, and their environment at the behest of corporate America, while eviscerating the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Instead of common sense gun control, they’ve acted as mouthpieces for the NRA and offered “thoughts and prayers.”

Instead of more humane immigration policies, they’ve continued to demonize, blame and otherwise use immigrants as scapegoats in an attempt to keep people distracted from the fact that corporations and their political cronies are stealing them blind.

Instead of getting the money out of politics, neither party has embraced campaign reform, empowering the oligarchy at your expense, although individual progressive candidates have made reform a winning issue against incumbents.

In short, incumbents have been ignoring the will of the people for decades now, and if we the people continue to vote for the same politicians who created these problems they will continue to ignore us in the future and vote against the issues we say are most important to us.

If you’re mad as hell about what’s going on in Washington take a minute or two to find out whether your Representative or Senator is part of the problem. It’s simple—just go to govtrack (a nonpartisan service that tells you how your elected representatives vote) and check up on him or her. Don’t listen to their rhetoric; don’t let them brandish fear, hate, jingoism and prejudice to distract you from the fact that they’re screwing you.  

Don’t like tax giveaways to corporations and the ultra-rich? Vote the bastards who voted for them out.

Don’t like jobs with low wages and no benefits? Vote the bastards who refuse to back a livable minimum wage and refuse to put controls on corporate excesses out, and vote candidates who do favor these things in.

Don’t like health care that’s really wealth care? Vote out the bastards who voted against affordable health care.  Better yet, vote the candidates who back single payer in.

Don’t like the NRA controlling Congress? Vote the bastards who won’t take responsible action on guns out of office.

Don’t like politics and politicians who are bought and paid for?  Vote the bastards out.  And vote candidates who promise to get the money out of politics in.

But if you won’t do that, don’t complain, and don’t bother celebrating the 4th of July, because you really don’t live in a free country any longer. And realize we won’t achieve the country we want by voting for the usual suspects. It's not that we're getting what we deserve, but it's very clear that we're getting exactly what too many of us keep voting for.

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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