About Last Night: Reflections on the Mid-Term Results

wrong track

Like many Progressives, I woke up on Wednesday quite depressed. The drubbing the Democrats took in the mid-term elections was enough to bring to mind thoughts such as:

•Wow! Even Scott Walker . . .
•The tide of discontent represented by the mid-terms is absolutely disastrous for:
– The poor
– Working families
– African-Americans
– Women
– The elderly
– Young people
– The uninsured
– The imprisoned
– Tribal people who continue to be the victims of “America’s” unending wars
– And, above all, the environment!

But those were just the discouraged, cobwebby ruminations of a sleepy radical clearing his head to face a country whose senate will now be led by Kentucky’s own Mitch McConnell.

However, watching the morning-after report on “Democracy Now” put matters in perspective. There Amy Goodman interviewed John Nichols, a political writer for The Nation. His report on the election aftermath is entitled “Obama Need Not Accept Lame Duck Status.”

In his piece, Nichols recalls that the last five two-term presidents – Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush II –all faced in their final two years, a Congress with both houses controlled by the opposition. Yet all five finished strongly with quite high approval ratings (except for Bush II) and significant accomplishments during what was supposed to be their “lame duck” years.

This is not the time to give up, Nichols insisted. Instead it’s time to double-down on grass-roots issues making it clear to the President and to the Congress that the people’s concerns are not governed by the left/right ideologies that play into the Corporate State’s obvious strategy of Divide and Rule. Instead on the issues that mean the most to us, the grassroots is guided by a sense of fair play, the Golden Rule, and simple justice.

In this Nichols was echoing the thought of Ralph Nader in his recently published book, Unstoppable: the emerging left-right alliance to dismantle the corporate state. There Nader argues that ordinary Americans come together on a broad range of issues that transcend left-right divisions. Nader enumerates 25 of them including most prominently:

•The necessity of overcoming government gridlock
•Minimum wage increases
•Equal pay for women
•Infrastructure rebuilding
•Affordable college tuition
•The need for health care reform
•Retaining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
•Resistance to the surveillance state
•Protection of government whistle-blowers
•Repeal of Citizens United
•Skepticism about bloated military budgets and resulting wasteful foreign adventures
•Opposition to nebulous free trade agreements
•Rejection of further tax breaks for the wealthy
•The urgency of addressing global warming
•The futility of the war on drugs
•The scandal of voter suppression

On these issues, Nader says, all of us have to (1) join local conversations and form little alliances where we live, (2) make sure those conversations bubble up into the media, and (3) get the issues on the table for the next election cycle.

This is not the time to give up. Rather, it’s time to join together across the chasms that the plutocracy fosters to divide us. It’s time for grassroots movements to address our country’s real problems and to force politicians to do the same, but on our behalf.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

3 thoughts on “About Last Night: Reflections on the Mid-Term Results”

  1. Thanks, Mike, for something hopefully positive about last night’s disturbing reality of what our country (and the world by extension) will continue to face – for the next two years at least. It is becoming more and more obvious that our nation has become an oligarchy – and a police state.
    I do fear so for our nation that once once shone as a beacon and hope of possibilities never before seen in the world. Mostly, I fear for our children and grandchildren. I do not know if they will be prepared for what is coming.

    I had occasion recently to look up some appropriate quotes on ‘democracy.” Here are four that I found and liked:

    1. “Political campaigns are designedly made into emotional orgies which endeavor to distract attention from the real issues involved, and they actually paralyze what slight powers of cerebration man can normally muster.” James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936), The Human Comedy, 1937, Ch.9

    2. “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, 1944.

    3. “Equality and justice, the two great distinguishing characteristics of democracy, follow inevitably from the conception of men, all .men, as rational and spiritual beings.”
    Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977), Democracy and Human Nature.

    4. “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” Robert Maynard Hutchins, Great Books, 1954.


  2. Mike, of college tuition… note that several European countries are now offering free college tuition (although they don’t provide dormitories, and students have to pay their own living expenses).

    This makes sense to me; I don’t understand why so many basic college classes (that involve primarily reading) have become so prohibitively expensive. I wonder if the European countries, which have very low native birthrates, are planning to attract American youth, who would find high standards of living over there, and who would escape the looming debt bills that our government is setting up for the next generation.

    Attracting young, educated residents is, after all, the rationale for some out-of-state scholarship programs in ambitious places like North Carolina.

    Tennessee now offers two free years of community college to most students with decent grades, using lottery money to fund this.

    A young Chinese student in one of my Berea history classes laughed when the instructor asked for ideas about keeping Berea solvent (back around one of the financial crashes — 2009?) He said that he saw a LOT of waste. I’m sure he did, and I noticed this also, coming from an earlier, more frugal generation.


  3. The mistake as I see it, is that people still think the Democrats are actually liberal/progressive. There might be an individual or two left but on the whole, they are just as corporate owned as the Republicans. If anything, I see the two parties as two wings of the Corporate Party whose respective marketing departments pretend they are different from each other and proceed to keep us divided and at each other’s throats. The Democrats have been shifting right since the DLC started all of that “Third Way” centrism and decided to hop in the sack with Wall Street. I no longer see the Democrats as the party who will help us solve the problems outlined above. As far as “caving” goes whether it’s Obama or the Democratic Party, it isn’t really caving if it’s what you really want.


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