The disenchanted must vote
Are liberals smug and righteous in their certainty that they’re winning the hearts and minds of the electorate? Or are they sadly out of step with mainstream Americans, most of whom have not really hopped on the equality bandwagon, resisting transgender access to public bathrooms, marriage equality, reproductive rights, and comprehensive immigration reform?
In a recent post in the Atlantic, staff writer Molly Ball pointed out that Democrats have been mostly losing the culture wars in mid-year elections, suggesting “the left has misread the electorate’s enthusiasm for social change” and may be headed for a continuing backlash in elections to come.
The problem is actually much more fundamental. While it’s certainly true that this off-year cycle produced results in line with Ball’s construct, there’s a giant looming black cloud ready to rain on the progressive parade.
Our people are no longer voting.
Nevada’s electorate is increasingly polarized, just like the country. But it’s far more likely the older, whiter, wealthier, social conservatives will continue to vote in droves, even in a non-presidential year. The younger, more diverse, and progressive crowd can’t be bothered to vote in the down-ticket races and are dubious that meaningful change is even possible any more.
They may turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, and they might make a special effort to vote for a minimum wage hike or to legalize marijuana, but the rest of the ballot is a boring irrelevant blur. They turn away in disgust at the stories they see, mostly in social media, about Nevada’s poor national rankings, such as the solid F we recently received for lack of public integrity and lobbying disclosure. You’d think they’d vote if only to change that grade, but candidates don’t like to talk about ethical behavior in politics, as they generally concede the issue to the corporate lobbyists who like things just the way they are.
Voters think the system is rigged against them when they hear about our tax money being siphoned off by corporate billionaires or watch as thinly disguised taxpayer-funded handouts are given to wealthy families supposedly as a way for poor kids to improve their education. It’s easy to see why they don’t believe their government is focused on the greater good.
This lack of engagement in the voting process will doom progressive candidates unless a serious voter-to-voter campaign can convince them to participate. A poll released last week by the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, conducted by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, referenced the term the Rising American Electorate (RAE), the disengaged voter pool of minorities, millennials, and single women who will make up a majority of eligible voters for the first time in 2016.
In his analysis, Greenberg notes that it won’t be enough to run on affordable child care, equal pay, college loan forgiveness, or family leave. Progressive candidates must clearly articulate a “reform agenda” and outline the policies they will use to reduce income disparity, better educate our kids, and get corporate money out of our elections.
RAE voters want to hear what state politicians are going to do about climate change or automatic voter registration, and they want to be sure their opinions will matter in what they regard as a corrupt and dishonest political environment. They are exhausted by presidential candidates being caught in bold-faced lies about their past with their policy positions needing to be fact-checked to determine even a minimal level of veracity.
If they’re not convinced their voice will be heard, the RAE will shrug and stay home. But you can bet the older, mostly white and very conservative segment of the electorate will show up to vote against progress.
They always do.