It was reported earlier this week that independents have surpassed Republicans as the largest voting bloc in Arizona. Independents are only slightly ahead of GOP registration. The bad news is that only 29 percent of the state's registered voters are Democrats. In 1992, Democrats made up 42.5 percent of voters.
More bad news would come in the unasked questions. How many of these "independents" trend to the right when they vote? And how many are low-information voters who will also naturally vote for "conservatives," if they vote at all? Nationally, the "independent" label has been well exposed as misleading. I hate to sun on the parade, but Arizona is a red state not a purple one.
I mention this in the context of the wider political story of 2014: The Democrats are running scared, running away from President Obama and Obamacare. The political press is all but in agreement that the Republicans will take control of the Senate in the fall election.
As an editor of mine used to say, Why is that?
After all, the GOP is the Party that Wrecked America. From tax cuts for the rich and policies that have created the widest income inequality since the Gilded Age, to endless wars and an endless war on the commons and "entitlements" — in reality, the earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare — the Republicans have pursued a radical, ruinous agenda.
To be sure, they had help from corporate Dems, especially in the deregulation that set the table for the worst recession since the Great Depression, and in bad trade deals that have helped hollow out the middle class. But, really. Today's American disaster? "The Party of Lincoln" owns it.
And a majority of voters are inclined to put them in charge of the Senate?
This is what happens with cowardly Democrats, a party in disarray. This also happens when, especially thanks to Citizens United, the plutocrats can spend unlimited sums to buy a government ever more in fealty to corporate interests. And let's not forget the Holy and Infallible National (Assault) Rifle Association.
But this is also the Cold Civil War and the New Confederacy is winning. "Fergit, hell!" the Lost Causers would say. And they haven't forgotten. They never forgot. And after the Voting Rights Act, the GOP Southern Strategy ensured they wouldn't. My God, there's a "nigger in the White House." Not my words, but ones I have received in emails and are abundant on the Internet.
Into their dream world have been drawn millions of Americans that should be voting straight-ticket Democrat. But they are convinced that all of their problems are because minorities are getting things they don't deserve, because That (Black) Man in the White House has foisted SOCIALISM on the land of the free and home of the brave.
Side note: If this is socialism, where is my free health care and college education and high-speed rail? Why aren't the war criminals of the previous administration and the Wall Street racketeers in prison?
If hope can't come from Mr. Obama, surely it will be delivered by demographics. The angry old white voters will die off.
I don't doubt the grim reaper, but I do question the demographic fairy, as Paul Krugman might put it.
The median age of the nation is 36.8 years. That means that only a relatively small cohort has ever knowingly lived under successful liberal governance, the long consensus that ended, ironically, with the resignation of Richard Nixon.
All have continued to benefit from the liberal policies put in place over the decades. They just don't know it. As I have written before, only in a nation with the protections and safety nets of America could Ayn Rand and libertarianism be taken seriously. It's a fantasy hobby. But unlike, say, model railroading, it carries consequences of national suicide.
I am unconvinced that the young will save us.
For one thing, most don't know anything about history or civics. The smartest know how to write code but they don't know how a bill becomes law. They don't know why inequality is dangerous to democracy or why the Progressive movement began in the first place. Many, safe with their inheritances, indulge in "libertarianism." You know, how the free market built the Internet and unlocked the human genome.
The rest have spent a good portion of their lives with reality television, video games, social media, "body art" and waiting on the next electronic distraction. What does the television and much of the Web tell them about their straitened futures? It's Obama's fault.
Seventy-eight percent of the country is "white alone". In Montana (two U.S. senators, even if the population is less than the East Valley), nearly 90 percent is white. The same is true in the fracking and nuclear-armed powerhouse of North Dakota. And so it goes through much of the New Confederacy.
Yes, the angry old whites will die off. But Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Marco Rubio and "Goldwater" Institute President Darcy Olsen are not old. The right-wing machine has trained tens of thousands of young activists. Beyond them, especially in the New Confederacy and CSA-curious states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, angry old whites are being replaced by angry younger whites. And they vote. Against their interests, to be sure — What's the Matter With __________ — but they vote.
Hispanics don't, at least not in numbers to change the calculus that favors the right. It is magical thinking to believe this will change without a return to the big-city machines of old, an unlikely proposition.
But aren't younger white Republicans likely to be more tolerant on some social issues? Maybe, although visit a megachurch and check the age of the congregation. Yep — the old folks are at the dying, liberal mainline Protestant churches. Research the degree to which fundamentalism has penerated the military. How did the Charlie Company of old become "Chosen" Company?
This young GOP may pipe down on "the gay" for tactical reasons, but it is as relentless on women's reproductive issues as its elders. It is determined to dismantle "government schools" in favor of the charter school racket — a favorite trope of billionaires, too — and religious schools, along with all the other fetishes of the right.
Younger Republicans will not vote for SOCIALISM, as in such outlandish schemes as investing in infrastructure, science and real public schools. Tax cuts and anything goes for corporate America are as much their religion as that of their elders.
But isn't there hope in the Pew poll showing millennials more likely to be "liberal" than "conservative" (31 percent vs. 26 percent)? Maybe. But, faced with a rudderless Democratic Party and right-leaning corporate media, do they know what liberalism and liberal government mean? Millennials are actually less likely than other generations to be concerned about the environment.
Other findings of the Pew survey were not encouraging, either. This generation is less connected to the wider commons and detached from institutions, including organized politics. You can bet that last part isn't true of the 26 percent that self-identify as conservatives. They will be partisan Republicans. Fergit, hell!
Stunningly, this is the only generation where self-identified liberals outnumber conservatives. Mr. Obama might have mobilized these young people into a sustainable movement, but it was not to be.
To be fair, generations are not monoliths. There is no single archetype of the baby boomers or any other. Progressives are found in every generation, but they tend to cluster in major metropolitan areas. These same metros produce 90 percent of the nations output and fund the net-taker red regions.
But our form of government is based on states, not metros. Representation is wildly out of whack and favors the right. Even Washington state, which you imagine as blue heaven, would turn red if not for Seattle and environs, and in the state legislature the anti-Seattle movement works against the city that is the golden goose.
Finally, countries around the world have shown how a ruling class can perpetuate itself for decades after it was outnumbered, even without using (much) force.
The inflection point came in 2010, when Democrats ran for the tall grass, abandoning the president and his health-care plan, and Republicans took control of most statehouses. In most cases, they have engineered legislative and congressional districts to ensure their control at least until 2020.
North Carolina is a telling example. Unlike Arizona, it was a competitive state and the most progressive in the South. That changed after 2010. Now it has embarked on a radical right agenda, including slashing unemployment benefits and intimidating regulators. One consequence has been disastrous pollution from the coal ash pits of Duke Energy, conveniently the longtime employer of the governor, Pat McCrory.
Have there been consequences? None, aside from the Moral Monday protests in Raleigh. Sen. Kay Hagen, the last statewide Democratic officeholder, is in trouble.
A Leninist would say, the worse the better. It hastens the day of the revolution. But the quiet coup has happened and any revolution will be from the right against perceived SOCIALISTS.
Still, on election day, your vote counts as much as a Koch brother's ballot. To use a Nixonian (Agnewian?) term, a vast silent majority of the screwed is there for the picking — but only if Democrats fight. Even on Obamacare. What did the Republicans have as an alternative for a plan that actually originated with them? A voucher for nothing.
I think about the line Morgan Freeman's character speaks in the film Glory: "Gonna come a time when we all gonna have to ante up. Ante up and kick in like men. LIKE MEN!..."
Adjust the gender language to suit your liking, but the point is that the right continues to win when the left won't fight. Won't try. Won't attempt to build a compelling new narrative. Won't make the taxpayer-looting, climate-denying, job-killing plutocrats the enemy. Keeps compromising as the "center" continues drifting into the red zone. A higher minimum wage isn't enough.
We would have few of the blessings this country enjoys today without the foundations and safeguards laid by progressive governance. Only we are here to remind others of the America that was, the civilization and experiment in self-government rather than merely a gamed "marketplace" — and what was done, stone by stone, to destroy it.
That story must be told, and told, and told. And if we must go down fighting, at least we will have some honor.