[COMM-ORG] post-election community organizing
Discussion list for COMM-ORG
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sat Nov 6 10:03:07 CDT 2010
Peter Dreier <dreier at oxy.edu>
Friends and Colleagues:
You've already been bombarded with analyses of Tuesday's election. Most
of these mainstream analyses have to do with the "mood" of the country.
Do Americans think Obama and the Democrats went too far in promoting
"big government" solutions? How did theTea Party seem to come out of
nowhere to have such a big influence? Was the election a repudiation of
liberal values and policies, proving that America is really a "center
right" country? Why was turnout so low among liberals, Democrats, young
people, and people of color? Was there really an "enthusiasm gap" among
Americans who had supported Obama and the Democrats in 2008. Is that
because (a) Obama and the Dems didn't live up to their expectations?
or (b) Obama and the Democrats enacted a robust and progressive agenda,
but did a lousy job of selling it to the American people, including
their own base?
Below are some of the more interesting analyses that address these
questions. I've linked quite a few articles in this list. I've divided
it into three sections: (1) *Big Money = Big Winners. (2) The Voters --
What Happened? (3) What To Do Now?* Scroll down, look at the topics,
and decide which ones to read now and which ones to put on your "to do"
*1. **_Big Money = Big Winners:_* Almost every mainstream political
pundit has missed the real story of Tuesday's election. The real winners
are America's biggest corporations, banks, oil and energy industry, the
insurance companies, the super-rich, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
* The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has done us the huge favor of
articulating in simple terms its agenda for the next Congress.
Here it is:
* For the next two years, we can expect the Chamber and its
business allies to expand their "cry wolf" warnings that any
proposal to require big business to be more responsible, to
protect consumers, the environment, workers, and working families
will "kill jobs."
* A small network of business groups and right-wing Republican
political operatives, including Karl Rove, did an extraordinary
job of raising and targeting huge amounts of money to Republican
candidates, including several supported by the Tea Party. NPR put
together this inter-active chart, "A Web of GOP Influence" that
identifies the key players:
NPR reporters did an outstanding job of researching this
business/right-wing political operation. Here's an article that
explains what they uncovered*:
· The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the key player in funneling money to
GOP candidates and paying for TV and radio ads attacking the Democrats.
Read this /Washington Post /article by Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of
/The Nation/, about the Chamber's influence*:
· Another big winner on Tuesday was Supreme Court Chief Justice John
Roberts and the other conservatives on the court, whose "Citizens
United" ruling opened the floodgates for massive and hidden corporate
cash directed to conservative candidates and campaigns, as Zach Carter
and Joshua Holland explain in these two short /Alternet/ blogs:
· The Tea Party 's success is due in large measure to the millions of
dollars pumped into their organizations and their candidates by
right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers ( as Jane Mayer reported
in the /New Yorker -
money funneled through organizations run by former Cong. Dick Armey and
other political operatives, and millions of dollars of free publicity
provided by Fox News (run by former Republican operative Roger Ailes)
and by the many right-wing radio talk show jocks like Rush Limbaugh.
Without that big-money support network, the Tea Party would be a
chaotic, fragmented network of local cranks and kooks.
· As Jake Blumgart and I report in our /Huffington Post/ column on
Tuesday, the Tea Party and the Republican Party establishment are
During the past month, the mainstream media invented the idea that there
was a major rift within the GOP. There certainly differences in style
and rhetoric between some Tea Party candidates and other Republicans,
but their policy views are almost identical. For example, the fiery
Sen. Jim DeMint (the Tea Party's top cheerleader in the Senate) and
buttoned-down Sen. Mitch McConnell (the Senate minority leader) have
virtually the same voting record.
· Harold Meyerson's column in the /Washington Post/ last week
points out that the years that the Tea Party zealots consider the
"golden era" of American prosperity they mean "back to the period
between 1950 and 1980, when the vast majority of Americans encountered
more opportunity and security in their economic lives than they had
before or since." This period was anchored by major government
initiatives (like the interstate highway program, the space program, and
federal housing programs), strong unions, and a redistribution of income
from the top to the middle and bottom!
*2. **_The Voters: What Happened? _* The important questions are "who
voted" and "who did they vote _for_?"
· Ruy Teixeria's excellent analysis of Tuesday's election reports the
following: "Turnout levels were also unusually low among young and
minority voters and unusually high among seniors, whites, and
conservatives, thus contributing to a massively skewed midterm
* This is another way of saying that young voters, minority voters,
liberal voters, and Democrats voiced their frustrations by staying home,
while conservative voters voiced their frustrations by going to the
polls. Another word for what Democrats did is: "self-defeating."
· Low turnout among young people made a big difference in many key races
on Tuesday. In 2008, 66% of voters under 30 voted for Obama -- a
landslide by any standards. Even more remarkably, 54% of _white_ voters
under 30 voted for Obama two years ago -- the only age group among white
voters that gave Obama a majority of their votes. In 2008, under 30
voters represented 18% of all voters.
· Last Tuesday, under 30 voters represented only 11% of all voter. Among
those under 30 voters who came to the polls, 57% voted for Democrats --
a huge margin, but considerably smaller than their Democratic vote two
years ago. The Obama campaign did a remarkable job of inspiring and
mobilizing young voters in 2008. Little was done in the past two years
to keep them politically engaged.
· The exit polls show that low turnout among voters who supported Obama
and the Democrats in 2008 was compounded by voters who switched from
voting for Democrats in 2008 to voting for Republicans last Tuesday. For
example, 13% of voters who supported Obama in 2008 voted for Republicans
in House races last Tuesday.
· Union members and their family members came through for Democrats on
Tuesday, giving them 60% of their votes. But union households
represented only 17% of all voters this year. Two years ago, union
households represented 21% of all voters, and 59% of them supported
· African Americans came through for Democrats, too. They gave Obama
95% of their vote in 2008, they gave Democrats running for the House 90%
of their vote on Tuesday. But two years ago, African Americans comprised
13% of all voters; on Tuesday, the comprised only 10% of all voters.
Like young voters and union voters, their decline in turnout hurt
Democrats in close races.
*3. **_What To Do Now?: _* We've had two days now to wallow in self-pity
and finger-pointing. Now it is time to figure out what to do differently
to reverse these losses in 2010. What should progressives do? What
should Obama and the Democratic leaders do?
· On Monday night, the wonderful Rachel Maddow did us all a big favor by
devoting 15 minutes of her show to documenting the incredible
legislative successes of Obama and the Democrats in the last two years*.
It is worth watching. Yes, Obama wasn't able to deliver everything
progressives hoped for when we campaigned and voted for him in 2008,
but, as Maddow points out, his total legislative accomplishments are
remarkable. Obama didn't do a great job selling his achievements, and
the cynical media didn't help by giving the Tea Party and their GOP
friends a huge megaphone to attack everything Obama did. But
progressives and liberals also bear some responsibility for the
"enthusiasm gap" that kept so many people away from the polls on Tuesday.
· Amazingly, as Harold Meyerson notes in today's /Washington Post
/Americans who blamed Wall Street for the nation's economic problems
favored Republicans over Democrats by a 14% margin!! It is time to
reframe the debate over which party is in Wall Street's pocket!
· In his column Tuesday *(
Robert Reich reminds us that during FDR's first term, almost every major
business organization and leader, as well as almost every daily
newspaper in America, attacked his New Deal ideas -- such as Social
Security and the National Labor Relations Act -- as unwarranted "big
government" and even "socialism". During his re-election campaign in
1936, FDR mobilized public opinion against his political enemies. "Never
before have these forces been so united against one candidate as they
stand today," he thundered. "They are unanimous in their hate for me --
and I welcome their hatred." FDR won re-election in a landslide. Reich
suggests that Obama and progressives should follow FDR's example.
· Obama's biggest victory (which the Republicans now hope to repeal) was
the passage of the historic health care reform. As I wrote last May in
the /American Prospect
/*that victory happened because progressive groups -- unions, consumer
groups, community organizing groups, and others -- mounted a grassroots
protest campaign that saved the health care bill from defeat. The
activists focused public attention on the influence and greed of the
insurance industry, and gave wavering Democrats, including the
President, the support they needed to push for a reform bill.
Progressives and liberals need to sustain an permanent protest campaign
focusing on the outrageous greed, irresponsible practices, and political
influence-peddling of big business. It would help if the President and
the Democratic leaders were partners in this "inside/outside" strategy.
· In an op-ed in yesterday's /Los Angeles Times/, Marshall Ganz, who
helped design Obama's grassroots organizing effort in 2008, argues that
Obama needs to find his voice as an inspiring "transformational" leader,
and, in doing so, help unleash the potential power of his 2008
· We need to constantly reframe the public debate to remind Americans
that the Republicans, like Cong. John Boehner (the likely next Speaker
of the House) and Sen. Mitchell McConnell, are wholly-owned subsidies of
corporate America. That's where they get their money. That's their
agenda. In case you've forgotten already, here it is again:
· Boehner, McConnell, and their corporate sponsors have already declared
war on Obama, the Democrats, and any attempt to tame corporate abuses,
or reduce income inequality and poverty. McConnell today repeated that
his top priority in Congress is to make Obama a one-term President.
*As Ganz, Reich, and others have written, this is no time for Obama and
the Democrats to compromise principles for the sake of an illusionary
bi-partisan consensus. Boehner, McConnell, DeMint and the other
Republican leaders have absolutely no interest in bipartisan compromises.
· In an article on the Alternet website yesterday, Miles Rapoport,
president of Demos, the progressive think tank, has outlined a public
investment policy agenda
· Two recent issues of the /American Prospect/ include special reports
that offer a road-map for the Obama administration to rebuilt the
economy -- *"Jobs Well Done*" (in the October issue -
*"Recovery, Not Austerity"* (in the November issue -
· As progressives, we have a responsibility to push our allies in the
White House and Congress to propose legislation to put Americans back to
work (including a second jobs bill), force banks to renegotiate
mortgages and stop foreclosures, and raise taxes on the wealthy who have
gotten wealthier while the rest of America was sinking. If the
Republicans propose repealing the health care bill, Obama should remind
Americans that the GOP wants to allow insurance companies to deny
insurance to sick people (with "pre-existing conditions") and raise
premiums arbitrarily. Like FDR, he should dare the Republicans to oppose
bills that will put Americans back to work, save their homes, raise
taxes on millionaires, and force insurance companies, mining companies,
oil companies, and banks to behave responsibly.
If you've gotten this far, stick with me for two other matters:
· The newly-energized Republicans will ratchet up their attack on
government, public sector employees, and public school teachers. The
attack on school teachers takes the form of calls to evaluate teachers
using standardized test scores of students. The Economic Policy
Institute released a fantastic report a few weeks ago documenting the
serious problems with this approach. The report is cleverly titled,
*"Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers."*
*(http://epi.3cdn.net/b9667271ee6c154195_t9m6iij8k.pdf*). The report was
written by some of the nation's leading educational researchers,
including Diane Ravitch, the former Bush administration education
official who has changed her views about conservative ideas she once
promoted. Ravitch's new book/ (The Death and Life of the Great American
School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education)/ , and
her recent article in the /New York Review of Books, "The Myth of
a brilliant critique of the new documentary film about schools, "Waiting
for Superman," are both well worth reading.
· Although Obama's stimulus plan was not big enough, it nevertheless has
helped the country avoid a Depression-level collapse. In general,
neither Obama nor the mainstream media have done a good job reporting on
the many public works projects and private sector jobs created by this
investment of public funds. But there are exceptions to this good news,
and one of them is in my hometown of Pasadena. There, the City Council
targeted its entire $11.1 million federal stimulus allocation for a
politically-connected development project that will create poverty-level
jobs. In the current issue of the /Pasadena Weekly,/ I expose this
outrageous mis-use of federal financing in an article entitled,
*"Poverty Living at Luxury Prices."*
The city's stimulus funds are going to a developer who wants to convert
a former retirement home for 160 elderly and disabled residents (who
were illegally evicted) into a luxury hotel that will create about 75
poverty-level jobs!!!! Pasadena's business community and its historic
preservationists joined forces to support this project, but a coalition
of union, community, and faith-based activists are trying to get the
City Council to rethink their decision. Over the past 15 years,
activists in cities across the country have fought for local "living
wage" and "accountable development" laws, with many successes, as I
wrote about in the /American Prospect/ earlier this year. ("*Good
Jobs/Healthy Cities*" - .
Pasadena hasn't quite learned that lesson. Madeline Janis, executive
director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, makes a similar
point in her great /Huffington Post/ column*, "Good Jobs: The Only Cure
Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Program
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734
/"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of
great moral crises maintain their neutrality" - Dante/
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