The Case For Voting Democrat

I live in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional district, so most of the political ads I see are negative. Maybe that’s true everywhere, but it’s very obvious here: I’m told not to vote for Senator Shaheen or Rep. Kuster because they support President Obama too much. I’m told not to vote for their opponents because Marilinda Garcia is “too extreme” and Scott Brown is “working for the Big Guys, not New Hampshire“.

And while I recognize that it’s important to lay out the stakes of increasing the power of Republicans in Congress — do you like what they’ve been doing? they’ll do more of it if they have more power — I also think it’s important to close a campaign positively: Forget the other guy (or gal), why should people vote for you?

Allow me to explain by looking at the major issues: the economy, climate change, inequality, immigration, protecting our rights, ObamaCare, and war.

The economy. Under Democratic leadership, the economy has been getting slowly but steadily better in just about every way. Since Inauguration Day, 2009: Unemployment is down.

Screenshot 2014-11-01 08.07.16

GDP is up.

Screenshot 2014-10-31 10.54.28

The budget deficit is moving towards balance.

Screenshot 2014-10-31 10.32.26

The stock market is up.

Screenshot 2014-10-31 10.39.17

And inflation has stayed low.

No one denies that the recovery has been slow. That’s the difference between the old-style inventory-correction recessions and the bubble-popping recessions we’ve seen lately, as I explained in 2011. (Short version: In an inventory correction, the business cycle can return to its previous high as soon as retailers work through their excess inventory. But when a bubble pops, the previous high was based on a fantasy.) The 2008 housing-bubble downturn is the third consecutive bubble-popping recession, after the savings-and-loan bubble in 1990 and the dot-com bubble in 2000. All three led to what were described at the time as “jobless recoveries”. The 2008 bubble was bigger and and the corresponding recession deeper than the other two, so it has taken even longer to come out of.

All through the Obama years, the economic argument has been between Democrats who wanted more stimulus — maybe by doing something about our crumbling infrastructure or upgrading our antiquated electrical grid — and Republicans who wanted to cut spending. The result has been moderate stimulus — not nearly what economists were calling for.

What would have happened if we’d gone the Republican route? History doesn’t allow do-overs, so it’s impossible to say for sure. But one comparison says a lot: Europe and the UK suffered the same recession we did, and implemented the austerity program that Republicans wanted here. It didn’t go well. (The graph below was the best one I could find, but it only goes to 2012. The U.S. advantage only grows after that. In the most recent quarter, the American economy grew 3.5%, compared to 3.2% in the UK, and growth in the European Union has been stuck below 1%.)

Climate change. The environment used to be a bipartisan issue. Republican President Teddy Roosevelt was a proud environmentalist; Richard Nixon established the EPA; and as recently as late in 2007, conservatives like John McCain were campaigning on environmental issues. “Climate change is real,” he said at a New Hampshire rally I attended, and he proudly described the McCain-Lieberman cap-and-trade plan to cut carbon emissions.

But today, climate change is a party-line issue. If you agree with the scientists who study the topic that climate change is happening, is caused by burning fossil fuels, and that something should be done about it — in other words, if you hold the 2007 McCain position or anything stronger — you should be a Democrat. Otherwise, you’re with these guys:

Cap-and-trade passed the House when Nancy Pelosi was speaker, but fell to the threat of a Republican Senate filibuster in 2010. (McCain had turned against his own idea by then.) When Republicans took control of the House in 2011, the possibility of passing anything through Congress ended. Because there is no Republican climate-change plan that Democrats could compromise with or even surrender to. The Republican position is that climate change is just not a problem.

The only Republicans willing to talk about climate change at all are the ones claiming it’s a hoax created by a conspiracy of liberal scientists. Sarah Palin says: “More people are waking up to the global warming con” and goes on to compare concern about climate change (“hysteria”) to eugenics. You might say Palin doesn’t matter, because she isn’t in office. But the Republican chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology recently sounded similar in an op-ed in the Washington Post. Its final paragraph begins:

Instead of pursuing heavy-handed regulations that imperil U.S. jobs and send jobs (and their emissions) overseas, we should take a step back from the unfounded claims of impending catastrophe

That leaves the executive branch to take action on its own, which is always going to be a second-best option. We’re still a nation of laws, so if you can’t change the laws your hands are tied. Nonetheless President Obama and the EPA have taken a few small steps towards mitigating the very real disaster we keep marching towards. (2014 is looking like it will unseat 2010 as the hottest year on record.) Fuel economy standards on cars and carbon-emission standards for power plants have been raised.

But Mitch McConnell is promising to undo Obama’s executive actions if he becomes majority leader of the Senate. So we’ll be back to doing nothing.

Inequality. The old slogan was “A rising tide lifts all boats.” In other words, if the economy became more productive, rich, poor, and middle class would all benefit alike.

That stopped being true right about the time of the Reagan Revolution. Since then, we’ve cut taxes on the rich and on corporations, raised payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, made it all but impossible to start a new union, drastically limited the enforcement of antitrust laws, and made students pay for more and more of the cost of a college education. The results have been predictable.

I wish I could say Democrats were fighting to reverse all that, but they’re mostly just trying to keep it from getting worse. ObamaCare was a step in the right direction, and so was the tepid increase in the top tax rate in 2013. Meanwhile, Republicans are full steam ahead: even lower top tax rates, less regulation, less support for education, and more union busting.

Immigration. The Senate immigration reform bill is one of the rare examples of bipartisanship in the Obama era, but Republicans in the House blocked it without passing any alternative, or even bringing one to a vote. The House passed the DREAM Act back in 2010 when the Democrats were in control, but it died in a Republican Senate filibuster.

Like climate change, immigration is another issue where President Obama — recognizing that Congress is stuck — has tried to do what he can without new law. He has moved DREAMers to the bottom of the deportation priority list, and has implied that he will do more after the election. Republicans have threatened to impeach him if he does.

In the 2014 cycle, immigration has been a prime focus of Republican demagoguery. “Secure the border” is the refrain, and it connects to whatever fear-object is currently available: ISIS, Ebola, or unemployment. Meanwhile, they provide few details about what a secure border would look like or how it might be achieved. More and more, “our Mexican border is insecure” looks like one of those permanent ideological fixations that needs no supporting facts — similar to “we need to cut spending” or “voter fraud is rampant”. It will always be true, no matter how many walls we build or border agents we hire. And it will always be a reason to do nothing about immigration.

Protecting our rights. Both parties think the other side is attacking basic American rights. However, they disagree on which rights are in danger.

Democrats are trying to defend these rights: The right to vote without paying a de facto poll tax or jumping through partisan hoops. The right to marry the person you love. The right to decide for yourself whether to carry a pregnancy to term. The right to be treated fairly by police, even if you are poor or non-white. The right to equal pay, regardless of gender. The right of women to have their health problems taken as seriously by insurance as men’s health problems.

Republicans are worried about these rights: The right to carry a loaded rifle through the aisles of Target. The right of businessmen to refuse service to people they don’t like. The right of employers to decide what health coverage their employees can have. The right of Christian pharmacists and health-care workers to put their religious beliefs above your care. The right of corporations and billionaires to spend as much money as they want on political campaigns — and to do it anonymously.

Which set of rights you think are really important and actually in danger should tell you something about which party to vote for.

War. In the last year of the Bush presidency, 314 American troops died in Iraq. So far in 2014, there have been two. In Afghanistan, the total went from 155 in 2008 to a high of 499 in 2010, and this year is down to 49. Meanwhile, President Obama has resisted calls to put troops on the ground in Syria or return combat troops to Iraq, and continues to resist pressure to attack Iran. Like every president since Truman, Obama has failed to resolve the Israel/Palestine problem, if you want to criticize him for that.

ObamaCare and public health. There was a time when Republicans were planning to make this election a referendum on ObamaCare. But they dropped that plan, because more and more obviously all the time, ObamaCare is working: The number of uninsured people is down everywhere, but especially in states that accepted Medicaid expansion. Healthcare inflation is down. None of the sky-is-falling Republican predictions have come true. (They’re still predicting disaster, but more and more they resemble a religious cult predicting the End of the World: It’s coming, but the date keeps sliding for some reason.)

As I explained in more detail last week, public health in general is a Democratic issue. It’s fundamentally a we’re-all-in-this-together issue rather than an every-man-for-himself issue. In a genuine epidemic like the 1918 flu, your neighbor or your nanny or the janitor at your office getting sick is a problem for you; you want them to be diagnosed and treated as efficiently as possible. You don’t want them staying out of the system because they don’t have health insurance, or because they don’t have papers and are afraid of being deported.

The Ebola panic has pointed out something else as well: Public officials should keep their heads in a crisis, and not play on people’s fears for political gain. The Obama administration and Democrats generally have provided the calm, fact-based, science-based leadership this country needs.

 

That’s true across the board. If you want leadership that is based on facts, on science, and on the way reality actually works, you should vote for Democrats.

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Comments

  • jeherendeen  On November 3, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Maybe you’d like to reassess the country’s situation with regard to this: http://daviddegraw.org/peak-inequality-the-01-and-the-impoverishment-of-society/

  • Kim Cooper  On November 3, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Why “Democrat” rather than “Democratic”?

    • weeklysift  On November 3, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      I went back and forth. I know the whole “Democrat Party” thing, and didn’t want to evoke that, but I think “Vote X” slogans just sound better using the noun form of the party rather than the adjective form, like “Vote Union”.

  • picksg  On November 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Wonderful article as usual. Thank you.

  • coastcontact  On November 8, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    All great graphs and good logical thinking too. However, part of the president’s job is to make people feel good about their country. Barack Obama speaks like a college professor. Many of his own words have added to his problems. “If you like your health plan you can keep it.” Add to his speaking style is the Republican battering and you have an electorate that believes the country is on the wrong track both domestically and in foreign affairs.

    The latest reports and again his own words tell me he thinks he has the power to act on his own without support of congress.

    My prediction: The next two years will be more grid lock.

Trackbacks

  • By Little by Little | The Weekly Sift on November 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

    […] This week’s featured posts are “Vote. It’s not nearly enough, but it’s something.” and “The Case for Voting Democrat“. […]

  • […] from the scary territory they were stuck in for so long after the housing bubble popped, and all are trending in the right direction. The stock market is at an all-time high. American combat troops are almost out of Afghanistan and […]

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