Midterm elections — telling it like it is
volume 35
issue 6
December 2014

The November 2014 midterm elections conveyed messages about the U.S. electorate that are far more important than the pundits’ focus on “Republican sweeps.” The Grand Old Party may stride around trumpeting their supposed “mandate” as they take control of the U.S. Senate and several governorships. But the highest percentage of eligible voters were the 63.7 percent who stayed home. Of the die-hards who cast ballots many were of a “throw the bums out” mindset.

There were some key themes. For all the billions of dollars the major parties spent, what they won was the lowest voter turnout in 72 years. Could that be because the difference between the twins is growing dimmer in the minds of the people? After all, they both love war, cut food stamps and housing, slam public education, and trod at a snail’s pace in tackling burning environmental issues, such as climate change.

This election also showed that millions of people are being hurt by voter suppression laws, which especially target Black, Latino and immigrant voters. In Texas, for example, a federal judge recently estimated that a new Voter ID law disenfranchised 600,000 voters; this might explain why the lone star state had one of the worst election turnouts in the U.S.

Another problem is that legions of voters have no choice because election laws and financing is rigged against third parties and independent candidates, especially those that are anti-capitalist.

Still, there was plenty of good, if underreported, news out there. Where there were important issues on the ballot, clear victories were won for progressive forces. The minimum wage was raised in Arkansas, South Dakota, and two other states. Fracking was banned in locales of Texas and California. Anti-abortion measures flopped in Colorado and North Dakota. In Alaska and Florida, voters protected the environment. In Illinois, they decided to tax millionaires for education funding, and to require insurance plans to cover contraception. These victories, amidst the gloom of a Republican takeover, are illuminating and encouraging.

Mainstream news outlets focus on the drama that sells newspapers — casting the twin parties in the role of opponents who are at each other’s throat. Their coverage concentrates on the “unfortunate hard feelings” between congressional and White House personalities, and the need for Congress to “just get along.”

But reading between the lines of the election results shows that the person in the street isn’t buying this crap. What is wanted is real alternatives and democracy — something that U.S. capitalism is showing itself unable to provide.

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