A Political System On Life Support

The results of Tuesday’s “earth shattering” election are quite revelatory, but not for the reasons bruited about by your average MSNBC/Fox/CNN vacuous pundit.

Although President Obama won’t use the word—and bless him for it—it was a “shellacking” which the voters meted out to the Democratic Party. But let’s examine this “mandate” a bit further.

The turnout for the midterm election stands at 36%, a low not seen since the 1940s. That’s 36% of registered voters. Voter registration in its turn doesn’t encompass all eligible voters. This Al Jazeera article has this telling paragraph:

Election turnout is often cited as an indicator of the strength of the mandate of winning candidates, but it can be a misleading statistic: Turnout is usually measured as a proportion of registered voters rather than of those eligible to vote — and census numbers show that more than 70 million U.S. citizens of voting age are not registered voters.

Get that? 70 million Americans who are eligible to vote aren’t even registered. What does this mean? That the number of registered voters is at best a bare majority of eligible voters. And then that the voters who turned out were a minority of that number. And then that the GOP “landslide” depended on a further minority of registered voters, which in turn doesn’t account for all eligible voters.

This opens up a veritable cornucopia of delicious dysfunction.

On one side we have the Democratic Party. Democrats are what I like to call “sexy voters”: they only vote when the election is sexy. Thus they swamp the polls in presidential elections. This will almost ensure a Democratic successor to Pres. Obama in 2016.

The problem is that when the election isn’t sexy—”Oh God, who cares about Congress/judges/school boards?”—Democrats are far less likely to turn out. Which leads to what happened Tuesday.

On the other side, we have the Republican Party. If there’s one thing you can depend on Republicans doing is turning out to vote. There’s one slight problem with that: they’re dying off. GOP demographics trend older, male, and white—exactly the demographic going into rapid decline. Democratic voters are the ones who will own the future. But, even though Democrats outnumber Republicans, it doesn’t reflect in who shows up at the polls for off-year elections. Thus, aside from the 2007-2011 interregnum, the GOP has had a chokehold on the House of Representatives since 1995, a grip which doesn’t seem about to be loosened soon. (Because, remember, Democrats don’t turn out for non-sexy elections, so the GOP death brigade decides state legislatures, which in turn decide Congressional redistricting. Funny how things mesh like that.)

What does this mean? This means that in 2016, if the pattern of the past two decades holds (because remember, in 2000 Al Gore won the popular vote, and in 2004 G. W. Bush scared the country sufficiently to win an election he should have lost), the Democratic nominee will win the Presidency, and Republicans, who will have to defend 20+ seats in the Senate to the Democrats’ ten, will lose control of that body. However, in 2018, the coalition which propelled the Democrats to a third consecutive national triumph will most likely fail to show up at the polls. The excuses will be the same tired ones, centering around not “being inspired” to vote, as if the serious business of self-government is akin to a childhood crush. And the GOP will continue its grip on the House, and may make up ground in the Senate.

Thus the delicious death spiral continues. Republicans can’t win national elections. Democrats can’t—or rather, don’t care to—win midterms. And the gridlock repeats into the distant future.

One can say many disparaging things about the US political system. But up until recently, the one thing it was was stable. Both parties were broad coalitions which sought to make deals across the ideological aisle. Ronald Reagan was saved not by values voters, but by Tip O’Neill.

But now in the Democrats we have a party which can’t seem to win local elections. And in the Republicans we have a party which can’t win national elections because it’s seen as too extreme. So each party dominates one branch of government, in an infuriatingly unstable tango. The US political system has taken on the trappings of those unstable parliamentary systems at which we like to tut-tut. But at least those systems, for the most part, can function, even if messily. The World’s Greatest Democracy™ has a political system awash in untraceable money, doing the bidding of silent corporations, unable to deal with the challenges facing it, lurching from one crisis to another. Democrats aside from Barack Obama don’t know how to formulate a reason for voters to vote for them. Republicans are in thrall to Know-Nothings on the one hand, who provide the shock troops, and a cabal of the super wealthy who want to trim the state to nothingness. It doesn’t make for a cheerful prospect.

But, of course, there is hope. Not for the Republicans; that party must fail root and branch, and its demographic demise is unavoidable. However, the Democratic Party has demography and history on its side. But that’s not enough. It has to build the sort of grass roots movement at which Republicans have excelled. But Democrats can do an even better job of it, due to the demographic advantages they have. However, ultimately Democrats have to stop being ashamed of being Democrats. They have to get on the mass media and passionately defend Democratic ideas. They have to out-argue and out-shout the right wing demagogues. They have to meet fear with hope, division with inclusion, irrationality with reason. They can’t back down, but have to be as in-your-face as the most reactionary Republican, with the difference that they have a better argument. Democrats have to take the “kick me” sign off of their asses and glue it firmly to the GOP. Democrats have to, as the kids say, “grow a pair”, not in some fake, macho way the way the GOP does, but show that they passionately believe in their ideas, and will tirelessly promote them.

Liberal ballot propositions won all across the country on Tuesday, from marijuana to the minimum wage. Democrats didn’t. That should tell the Democratic Party something. Liberal ideas resonate with the public. It would be nice if there was a party which could embody and fight for those ideas. That is the party’s task for the next two years. Otherwise, the future looks very grim.


102 Responses to “A Political System On Life Support”

  1. 1 Nena20409
    November 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Just popped in now, and LOOK what greeted me:
    Leave A Message.
    Hello TOD on this Sunny Afternoon.

  2. 5 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    • 6 Nena20409
      November 8, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      I am going out to say that this is perhaps, the first Time, a Black POTUS is replacing a cabinet Black Male AG with another AG Black Female Nominee.
      Another One for the History books.
      Thanks AG Holder and Thank You, Ms Lynch.
      A Special Thanks to Pres Obama.

  3. 11 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm

  4. 12 hopefruit2
    November 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks LL for cross-posting here. I saw your excellent essay on TPV and was hoping you would bring it over to TOD! This post speaks so many truths I don’t know where to start, but I will say this: Dems do have a lot of soul searching to do, but most importantly they have to get to the core of what is driving their mixed agenda, some of which is tinged with bigotry/racism that they refuse to confront and eliminate.

  5. 13 desertflower
    November 8, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks, LL…I passed this along:)

  6. 14 purpleshoesla
    November 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    LL, just like sw’s comment a couple posts back, this needs to go into a letter to the Democratic party machinery, national and state levels PRONTO!

  7. 15 Nena20409
    November 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Great Post. Great argued analysis, LL.
    Dems have Women, mostly single women, Minorities and a slight majority of Unions.
    Women are generally not allowed to scream in public. Their anger are not appreciated by the public. Minorities, especially Women of Color and Black Men are expected, told and demanded by the majority group……..Not to appear angry, authoritarian, powerful or in leadership roles for the majority…..God Forbid……would feel less threatened. Societal and Cultural racist, bigoted nonsense that is still alive today, unfortunately.

  8. 16 Jeff
    November 8, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I can seriously see why the rest of the world looks down on us when we go around and claim this country is the best. We’re not even close when so many who are eligible to vote but wont register, many states make it very difficult to vote. How does this represent freedom btw? We can’t go around claiming ourselves as a ‘free’ nation when these so called lawmakers and supreme court judges go out of their way to make it harder on the people that want to vote. How can we claim we are ‘free?’

    • 17 Nena20409
      November 8, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      Those who fought for their rights to Vote…….tend to exercise those rights.
      Women Vote at 54% while their population representation is 51%. Same goes with African Americans. They vote at a higher percentage than other groups who never fought the fight.

      OK, my theory is debunked with the young voters. They wanted the change from 21-18. I was hoping that with the New Tech…..they will by now…..but our system of Voting is as antiquated as ever.

    • 18 desertflower
      November 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Precisely. The idea of American Exceptionalism is nice, but something that we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel good. We can never be an exceptional nation while people live like 2nd class(or worse) citizens, are still discriminated against, give away their power, want for education, want for a living wage, want to equality…the list goes on and on. In a way, we’re enslaving ourselves all over again…in a 21st century way. The Great American Shame is that it’s willful.

  9. 19 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

  10. November 8, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    LL….absolutely spot on analysis. Clear explication of the problem……now, the Democrats have to work on the solution. I do hope this letter gets to all the relevant places…..DNC, DCCC, DSCC, DGA, DLCC….and others people can think of. This is vital for the future of our country.

    I wonder if this problem is something President Obama might work on after 2017? I know he sees this problem clearly, just because he mentioned that 2/3 of the registered voters did not vote. I like that you pointed out that this was NOT 2/3 of the possible electorate. I expect to see him work on building responsible citizens and 100% registration of eligible voters, and elimination of obstacles to voting. He is not going to stop trying to improve the country, and I will be excited to see him unshackled by political necessity.

    • 21 desertflower
      November 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      Personally, I would like to see a time when every child born in the US would be automatically registered to vote…as a baby…Even though they would not exercise that right for many years, they would not have to prove who they are or be purged from an eligible voter list. Couple that with better messaging and people that actually outwardly embraced Democratic ideals that the rest of America ( for the most part) agrees with….. it’s not brain surgery. Ideals need to mean something!

      • November 8, 2014 at 1:43 pm

        I agree, desertflower. Being a natural born U.S. citizen should be the first level requirement for eligibility to vote; age being a secondary level. Since SSN’s are required for most things, that could also be the point where a person becomes registered.

        I think that a person should also be able to go to any voting precinct to cast their vote…better yet, why have to go to a precinct at all? Of course, that would make it to easy to vote, and more people might actually do it.

        • 23 desertflower
          November 8, 2014 at 1:50 pm

          Absolutely…move to a different state? Automatically registered when you get new DL….rather than look for purging voters, look for ways to automatically register voters…

          • November 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm

            Totally agree on the birth registration and transfer from state to state. I do truly expect President Obama to work on this problem after 2017. As I said, we know he’s VERY well aware of the problem from his 2/3 remark. As Bob says: Trust Barack!!!

  11. November 8, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks LL…another thought provoking essay.

    “Democrats are what I like to call “sexy voters”…”

    I *really* thought that all the issues that have been in play lately — voter suppression, gun control, women’s rights, Ferguson, “stand your ground,” et al — would have made the mid-terms “sexy” enough to draw Democrats out to vote. However, Tuesday’s results tells me that for Democrats, “sexy” is the superficial. There is little or no desire to delve below the surface and deal with the substance; to understand the issues and make informed choices.

  12. 26 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Spot on analysis, LL!

    “…the Democratic Party has demography and history on its side. But that’s not enough. It has to build the sort of grass roots movement at which Republicans have excelled. But Democrats can do an even better job of it, due to the demographic advantages they have. However, ultimately Democrats have to stop being ashamed of being Democrats. They have to get on the mass media and passionately defend Democratic ideas. They have to out-argue and out-shout the right wing demagogues. They have to meet fear with hope, division with inclusion, irrationality with reason. They can’t back down, but have to be as in-your-face as the most reactionary Republican, with the difference that they have a better argument…”

    Shout it to the rooftops!

  13. 27 forus50
    November 8, 2014 at 1:13 pm

  14. 28 nospin
    November 8, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind.”

    Our POTUS recognizes this. You can’t change bigotry in the hearts and minds of bigots who have a need to feel superior. But if you refuse to be held by their bigotry, stereotypes and hatred, they have no power. That is why POTUS rises in spite of the traps laid for him by adversaries and folks in his own party.

    Minorities should not vote for a candidate just because they call themselves democrats it only enables the behavior and there is absolutely no direct benefit to that group.

  15. 29 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 1:16 pm

  16. 30 idon
    November 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Great article. However, we need black churches to start educating the public about how the political systems works and the importance of local elections and the mid-terms. We need a well-informed voting public. the angry uneducated uninformed GOP voter is dying out and now would be the time to a knowledge that and begin the process of serious education. Moral Mondays could certainly start addressing this issue as well. We need to educate every person to vote in every election even if it’s for the local dog catcher. Everything election matters.

    • 31 nospin
      November 8, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      more importantly, we need to demand better candidates who represent the interest of all Americans and not just one group. Blindly voting for democrats is what led the DNC to assume that they could hide the President as to not offend the real citizens and then expect him to reveal himself at the last minute to “turn out” the black vote. …. as if we were sheeple.

      As I reflect on the Tuesday elections I wondered… who in Congress spoke out against what was happening in Ferguson? I recall one woman from that state but how many of our folks in Congress or the democratic candidates running for re-election said anything at all? Who recommended taking any legislative actions to make sure it never happens again?

      Bottom line — We need to find better candidates who represent the interest of all Americans. The old way is dead and gone.. won’t fly going forward. It boils down to..who has more to lose under Republican rule? Democrats better get a clue.

    • 32 desertflower
      November 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Agreed, idon. I wrote something more detailed and it magically disappeared, so I will give the shorter version. Elections and voting for our best interests must be done each time, every time, no matter what. I liken it to tending a garden. If you tend your garden meticulously, always and without fail, beautiful flowers will grow and flourish for years and years. If you ignore the garden and become lax and lazy…the weeds overtake the garden and it becomes an ugly, unruly annoyance that needs to be pulled from the roots to start over. Simple in concept…we need to get to the business of tending our gardens.

  17. 33 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm

  18. November 8, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    The Crats have shown themselves to be SPINELESS…afraid of their own shadow…The President put them in a good place twice now(2008 and 2012 ) but they were too stupid and cowardly to expand on it..The prez had the most successful campaign ever and they couldnt even follow thru…WHY,WHAT, its so confusing as to their strategy…no guts at all…they’ve failed x2 now…2010 and 2014.The President took his awesome message across the nation and won big each time…NOW WHATS THEIR PROBLEM…THE BIG TENT FOLKS…YEAH AGAIN…O.K.
    I know,I know…gotta get pass this last wk…Just so Pissed right now!

  19. 35 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm

  20. November 8, 2014 at 1:42 pm

  21. November 8, 2014 at 1:43 pm



    p.s. RTs conveying info on various international events @ the sidebar for perusing …

  22. 48 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    LOL! 😀

  23. 50 Nena20409
    November 8, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Holy Smokes.
    Since in just days, TOD has added 28,103,899 hits.
    Hip, Hip, Hip, Hooray.

  24. November 8, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    😀 😀 😀

  25. 60 Nena20409
    November 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    So far……this year….
    Bergdahl, 3 Released from North Korea and one from Mexico.

    Now, if Americans will stay away from North Korea, Iran and Syria…….I would be a happier camper.

  26. November 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Bob did you see this?

  27. November 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm

  28. 64 hopefruit2
    November 8, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    It has come to my understanding that Grimes actually got fewer votes than President Obama himself got in 2012! If true, this does not bode well for HRC who made at least three campaign stops during the season. And I believe that Bill Clinton himself made at least 2 stops this year. The Clinton brand got Ms. Grimes a poorer result in KY than the Obama brand …just think about that for a second.

    • November 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      I have never understood those who support the Clintons. Bill gave us our corporate media and I don’t think Hillary did much for New York and wasn’t an effective First Lady

    • 66 Nena20409
      November 8, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      Better comparison would have been to when Clinton was elected. She professed to be a Clinton Dem.
      Clinton ran against GH Bush and Perot in 1992 and in 1996 against Perot and Dole.

      Besides, this past election, A Midterm……where voters are fewer in numbers……Hence, the lowest turn out since 1942.

  29. 67 desertflower
    November 8, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Exceptional my dying ass! Can someone of you kind souls pull this off for me? Thanks:)


  30. 71 Nena20409
    November 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm

  31. 72 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm


  32. November 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    • 75 Dudette
      November 8, 2014 at 2:26 pm

      Way to roll out of town Mr. President!

      • November 8, 2014 at 9:06 pm

        And gives the GOP a six-pack of home made beer from the WH to remember his name while he is away.
        I have a feeling there is much more “shellacking” to come
        We are just getting started…..
        As someone posted yesterday, Boehner probably finished his before he got to the gate.

  33. 77 desertflower
    November 8, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Remember this??


    both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.

    To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

    It was this cast of characters and the pernicious ideas they represent that impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill. A couple of months ago, I retired; but I could see as early as last November that the Republican Party would use the debt limit vote, an otherwise routine legislative procedure that has been used 87 times since the end of World War II, in order to concoct an entirely artificial fiscal crisis. Then, they would use that fiscal crisis to get what they wanted, by literally holding the US and global economies as hostages.

    • 78 desertflower
      November 8, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      Or shorter version:

      John P. Judis sums up the modern GOP this way:

      “Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today’s Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery.”

  34. 80 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Maya Rudolph’s Mom too

    • November 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      I remember her running for President back in the early 1970’s.

      • November 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

        From Wikipedia, but still….

        Many headlines constructed Chisholm as an emasculating matriarch with headlines such as the Boston Globe’s “Rep. Shirley Chisholm outflanks her black political brothers”. She later reiterated, “When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men.” In particular, she expressed frustration about the “black matriarch thing”, saying, “They think I am trying to take power from them. The black man must step forward, but that doesn’t mean the black woman must step back.”

  35. 84 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 2:14 pm

  36. 85 Nena20409
    November 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm

  37. 86 desertflower
    November 8, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Off to tutor:)

  38. November 8, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Just a reminder of who we are:

  39. 90 JER
    November 8, 2014 at 2:23 pm

  40. 91 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Liz ain’t scareda dem mofos 🙂

  41. November 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    FLOTUS filmed a brief but wonderful bmessage that was supposed to air on Shark Tank last night:


  42. 94 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm

  43. November 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Good Day all…
    I lurk EVERYDAY (although I am always behind – catching up) but have not been on the website since November 3rd. I have had these nervous knots in my belly and was hoping to stay positive. To date, I really do not know who won anywhere except – Sen. in Kentucky, our cheating Gov. in Florida (Broward county was a VERY low turnout) and Wendy Davis lost!…That’s about it….I have stayed away from the internet, TV or any news.

    I received our President’s email about the “Big Win” of the Republican party and felt worst! I am feeling so discouraged that I just want to give up…However, I am trying to follow President Obama’s lead and be as optimistic as possible….REALLY TRYING!

    I will go back to November 4th and read each post/comments. I know tomorrow will be a gloating day for all the news agencies and their Sunday shows….which I will not be watching.

    PS… I was at a function which included Broward County (FL) Sheriffs and as were were having a conversation with one, he received an email that they found a boxes of ballots….As I have not read or watched any TV, I did not follow up. Not sure if anyone else hear about it.

    • 96 mtmarilyn
      November 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      Please go back and listen to the President’s press conference Tuesday morning. It will lift your spirits and know that you will continue to have his back. Most of the Dem candidates ran from the President. Most lost. He won the whole nation by a landslide. He is our leader. The Repubs will overreach. It will be hard in some areas but we must stay true to our President’s lead. Stay strong and don’t listen to any media. I only come here and maybe some twitter. No more news at all!!

  44. November 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Want to be sure none of you miss these ….



  45. 98 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm

  46. November 8, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Pope Francis is not playing.

  47. 101 Dudette
    November 8, 2014 at 2:43 pm

  48. November 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Only 36% of registered voters voted. Meanwhile, there are people who didn’t vote because, and I quote, “My vote doesn’t matter anyway.” Stupid!

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