9.28.2007

Money and Why Voters Don't Matter

by Jeff Siegel

The most intriguing thing about President George Bush's poll numbers is not that his approval rating is near an historic low, but that Congress is right there with him (and with HMOs, which is truly scary). Contrast this with 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned and Congress got a 68 percent vote of confidence in a Gallup Poll.

Yet watch the political process, whether it's the various presidential campaigns or a variety of local races, and it's obvious that few in the polticial elite understand this. They see it, certainly, because they pay for the polls that tell them those things. But understand it? They're hopeless.

Mark Penn, the current polling genius, has pushed Hillary Clinton to the front of the Democratic presidential pack, but he hasn't been able to convince voters Clinton actually gives a damn about anything. Is it any wonder that Gallup notes that almost three out of five voters want a third party "to adequately represent the American people?" That's up from two out of five in 2003.

In Dallas, the elite are equally confused. A referendum is scheduled in November to cancel construction of a controversial tollroad, which garnered 90,000 signatures to get on the ballot. That's more people than voted in this spring's Dallas mayoral election. Nevertheless, the black woman who represents the tollroad's district in Congress (Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson) has said a referendum should not be held, while the area's gay chamber of commerce has sided with the business and political establishment to support the highway. It's like those 90,000 signatures don't register at all.

This is because the political class no longer sees voters as their customers, but as Orwellian proles to be manipulated this way and that. The manipulation is financed by the increasingly corrupt campaign contribution system, as well as what old-time Chicago pols used to call "Where's Mine?" In Dallas, for example, the congresswoman's support of the road guarantees continued campaign cash (even though she has a safe seat), while the gay chamber can count on contracts, commissions and the like for its members for its support of the road.

Is this too cynical a view? Perhaps. But I haven't seen anything in the last eight years to change my mind. Bush was elected twice because his handlers convinced voters that he was something he never had any intention of being. If Clinton is elected next fall, will she be any different? Will the war end? Will the health care mess be cleaned up? Will the economy and federal budget be put on solid footing? Or will she and and Penn just do another Bush and Rove on us?

(Photo of Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York campaigning in New Hampshire by Marc Nozell of Merrimack, NH via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)








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3 comments:

Liberal Arts Dude said...

A truly depressing state of affairs. Which makes the need all the more acute for a citizen-based progressive social movement among us proles. Reform movements do exist to make voters matter again such as Instant Runoff Voting and the National Popular Vote but for the most part they operate under the radar of national consciousness.

Jeff Siegel said...

Here's how bad it is -- the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll says 68 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush uis handling the war, and 54 percent want to leave. But you could't tell that from the three main Democratic candidates, all of whom waltzed around the subject at their debate on Sept. 26. (I expected this from Clinton and Obama, not as much from Edwards.)

So why don't they say they'll pull U.S. troops out? They don't believe in the voters. They're so wrapped in polling and focus groups that they can't see what's in front of them. Nuts to them.

Liberal Arts Dude said...

Here's an interesting article I found at the Open Left diaries which deals with apathy among the general population about participating actively in politics. He is calling for citizens to start taking their role as participants in a democracy much more seriously and sees civic renewal as being possible if people were to do that. If he is right, we as a population won't be Orwellian proles anymore and won't be ignored or manipulated so easily by the powers that be.

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