Monday, October 28, 2013

What Will Election 2014 Boil Down To?

Elections for Congress will be happening over the next twelve months, and I keep asking myself, "Will anything be different this time?"

What would it take for us to translate our dissatisfaction with what's happening in Washington into real change?

Despite what some people say -- "it all comes down to money" -- I think it is possible for new people to get elected to Congress. However, I think that can only happen if their positions are brutally simple and carefully chosen.

I suspect that people challenging incumbents need to boil it down to two or three things:
As people who are working for peace and justice, then, we need to ask ourselves: Can a peace and justice agenda be advanced under these kinds of conditions?

"It's the economy, stupid"

I believe that, if we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that the overwhelming factor affecting how people relate to candidates is how they are doing economically and whether the candidate's approach is even in the same solar system with their needs.

("It's the economy, stupid!" was the 1992 Clinton campaign's way of reminding themselves of this reality.)

Since no one really knows what federal government action can best affect economics of individuals, we are subjected to a biannual comedy of errors in which abstractions are thrown around -- shrink the debt, infrastructure investment, raise taxes, lower taxes, simplify taxes . . . .

The one thing that seems to be a sure-fire vote-getter is in-district spending.

But when are we going to have challengers point to the obvious fact that military spending is a sure loser? There is no question that U.S. "defense" spending creates a great flushing sound as dollars are exported out of the country to be spent at the hundreds of bases the U.S. operates in foreign countries all over the world.  What is less obvious but far more important is the long-term costs that we incur when we subject our service men and women to injury, bringing in train a process of decades and decades of health care efforts to heal them.  (And this does not even begin to count the cost of the injuries we inflict on those who are not our citizens.)

Can anyone name these true costs -- much less challenge them -- and still hope to be elected to office?  And yet can we ever hope to truly make our economy healthy if we don't address them?

Related post

What would happen if every member of Congress "adopted" a foreign military base and demonstrated what would happen if all the money spent there were brought home to local districts? Do you think the constituents would welcome THAT initiative?

(See How About a REAL (Tea) Party? SHUT DOWN THE MILITARY BASES! )

Big Government: Keeping The Beast at Bay

Every challenger has an inherent advantage in being able to credibly challenge government overreach.

There has been a good sign in 2013, in that many people have become outraged about government surveillance. A recent Pew poll found that Americans are now more worried about civil liberties abuses than terrorism.

The bad news is that a lot of energy has been mistakenly directed at the health care program, as if that is where the biggest threat of federal government overreach is.

I believe a big question in 2014 will be whether challengers successfully address the issue of NSA surveillance in their campaigns.

Related post

The Amash Conyers Amendment to curtail NSA spying was advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives shortly after the Snowden revelations. It narrowly failed -- in part due to the votes of some so-called "progressive" Illinois representatives.

(See In Chicago, Illinois: YOU ARE UNDER SURVEILLANCE! )

The Wild Card: Crisis Du Jour

It's probably true that the electorate doesn't care much about foreign affairs, and thus an antiwar stance per se doesn't serve a challenger very well.

Where foreign affairs do come into play is when there is some kind of "crisis" that serves to focus attention on politicians' expertise/savvy in foreign affairs.  This inherently tends to favor incumbents, because they are more likely to have some form of involvement in, or at least orientation to, foreign affairs, by virtue of their service to date.

The problem is, no one can tell where the next crisis will come from, right? Well . . . not quite . . . . Despite the narrative that says we live in a "dangerous world" and that we need our government to "keep us safe" from people who "have it in for us," the truth is that the U.S. government has its tentacles in every region and country around the world, continuously prodding and provoking.  Does it seem like there's always some new crisis, somewhere? With good reason . . . .

Related post

More than anyone else, the beneficiaries of permawar are the politicians who thrive on the power to make and control wars.

(See J'ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar)

More related posts

One issue that has a key place in the midterm elections in 2014, I believe, is surveillance.  With each passing day, I am hearing more and more people say that the surveillance issue is something that a wide spectrum of people are deeply upset about. That includes people on the right as well as people on the left -- people who don't usually talk with each other, much less work together for positive change!

(See The Surveillance Issue: The Fulcrum of the 2014 Election?)

Isn't now a moment when, instead of falling back into our existing habits of trying to change America's war-making ways, we should put our recent experience under a microscope? And ask what we can learn from this experience? Can we make 2014 the year that we sort the wheat from the chaff in Congress? And get the control over war and peace back into our own hands?

(See Election 2014: The Moment of Truth for the US Antiwar Movement?)

In the past several weeks, the President of the United States tried to undertake an attack against a foreign country, but the American people said "Hell no!" and the Congress let the President know they couldn't support it. How often does that happen?

(See When THE PEOPLE Take Control: "Anything Can Happen")