Election Day November 2nd, 2010 seems like just last week to me. On that day, Tea Party-backed candidates completed a stunning takeover of Congress, snatching up 60 seats as well as winning 24 of the US Senate races. Of course, they did it in part thanks to the Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate donations to “super PACS” that were then used for a flood of advertising for some incredibly radical (even by GOP standards) candidates like Allen West or Daniel Webster. My current state of residence, Louisiana, was a prime example of complete Republican dominance in which 5 out of 6 races were won by an almost 2 to 1 margin. Even in more moderate areas, candidates like Sharron Angle put up strong challenges to incumbents as the Tea Party tsunami rolled across the United States.
So, how just 2 years after electing our first African-American president did we suddenly find ourselves with a Congress so unproductive and packed with people who embraced political views reminiscent of 1950’s McCarthyism? We know that Citizens United allows for unlimited political donations, but last time I checked – despite accusations from both the left and the right of election and/or voter fraud – one person still equals one vote. It wasn’t so much that the now rapidly eroding alliance of the radical right and country club Republicans had all the money they could possibly spend on political advertising – it’s that we got complacent and even apathetic.
In 2008, young voters didn’t just turn out, they swarmed the polls to vote for Barack Obama.
In the last three general elections – 2004, 2006, and 2008 — young voters have given the Democratic Party a majority of their votes, and for all three cycles they have been the party’s most supportive age group. This year, 66% of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972. (Source)
In 2012, that number dipped to just 60%, indicative that younger voters were somewhat disenchanted with politics after 4 years and not getting all of the “Hope and Change” they imagined they were going to get. Two years earlier in 2010, they barely bothered to show up at all. The result of that was painfully obvious as Tea Party candidates swept into state offices as well and quickly pounded their agenda into law. As one example, between 2011 and 2013, more anti-choice legislation was enacted at the state level than in the entire past decade.
Far too many people think that by simply voting once every four years, they’ve done their civic duty – and then they wonder why we have a hopelessly gridlocked, partisan Congress. If we want to change this, we must drive home the fact that every single election matters, not just the presidential one. We have to educate voters that “clicktivism” is no substitute for actually getting out and participating in the political process. Simply sharing political blogs, petitions and memes on social media is only a part of the picture, not all of it.
2014 could be a very, very bad year for progressives – or it could be a very, very good year for us. The outcome rests solely on our shoulders.
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