Americans are sick to death of both parties

Americans are increasingly disillusioned with both Democrats and Republicans.  That’s why only 36 percent of registered voters cast ballots this year—a drop of 22 percentage points from 2012.

The national turnout was the lowest in 70 years in spite of the fact that more money was spent in the campaign than in any off-year election in American history.

fatcatPolitical scientists Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson said Americans have good reason for their disillusionment.

They explained in an article on Alternet how neither Democrats nor Republicans can represent the interests of working Americans because they are financed a tiny elite of wealth, and Americans are starting to catch on to this.

The Democrats rely instead on appeals to cultural liberalism, the grievances of women and minorities and memories of the New Deal.  The Republicans rely on appeals to cultural conservatism and prejudice, a big turnout of upper-income voters and hindrances to voting by lower-income voters.

But neither party has a convincing program for dealing with globalization, financialization, de-industrialization and the erosion of good jobs.

Average Americans may not understand the subtleties of economic policy, but they understand what is happening to them.  As John Dewey once wrote, you don’t have to be a shoemaker to know your shoes are a bad fit.

Burnham and Ferguson didn’t speculate as to what will happen if this goes on indefinitely.  My own opinion is that the USA will experience an upheaval worse than the labor violence of the 1890s and 1930s.

The militarization of American police and NSA surveillance of ordinary Americans then will be used by government in league with corporations to protect the social order from the masses.

Radical change would not necessarily be change for the better.  If there is a public uprising, it is likely to be led by someone like Huey Long or Joe McCarthy as by a great statesman.  But I don’t see how things can go on as they are.


Here are key paragraphs of Burnham’s and Ferguson’s article.

pew_study-e1418924445528It seems plain that the American political universe is being rapidly reshaped by economic and cultural crisis into something distinctly different.

The Democrats’ messaging this year was, indeed, almost eerily spectral. But its otherworldly feebleness was rooted in fundamental facts that are not going away and cannot be fixed by switching media advisers.

The first problem was the administration’s dismal economic policy record. Though some Democrats try to sugarcoat the dismal facts by focusing on changes since 2009, when the President assumed office, the truth is that the fruits of the recovery have gone lopsidedly to the very richest Americans.

Wall Street and the stock market boom, but wages continue to stagnate, and unemployment remains stubbornly high, with millions of Americans withdrawn from the labor force or working only part time.

As incomes recovered from 2009 to 2012, for example, 95 percent of all the gains went to the top 1 percent of income earners.

The rest of the population was left far behind. As of July 2014, real median household income was still more than 6 percent below its value in early 2008.

The administration’s continuing efforts to court Wall Street, along with its reluctance to sanction even flagrant misconduct by prominent financiers just pour salt into these wounds.

The other reason for the messaging failure is graver, because responsibility for it cannot possibly be fobbed off on the Republicans.  … …

The President and the Democratic Party are almost as dependent on big money – defined, for example, in terms of the percentage of contributions (over $500 or $1000) from the 1 percent as the Republicans.  To expect top down money-driven political parties to make strong economic appeals to voters is idle.

Instead the Golden Rule dominates: Money-driven parties emphasize appeals to particular interest groups instead of the broad interests of working Americans that would lead their donors to shut their wallets.

In the short run, the Democrats’ minuses look like big pluses to Republicans.  Both the party’s big donors and its national leaders are exultant at their prospects.

As David Stockman, President Reagan’s Budget Director once all but confessed, in the modern era the party has never really pretended to have much of a mass constituency.

It wins elections by rolling up huge percentages of votes in the most affluent classes while seeking to divide middle and working class voters with various special appeals and striving to hold down voting by minorities and the poor.

As we move further into the next stage of our New Gilded Age politics, only the terms of the bargain will change that the party’s core donors and economic policymakers strike around election time with the gaggle of evangelicals, gun advocates, and anti-feminist and homophobic crusaders – not to mention sheer racists – that whip up their flocks.  They will also serve, who only stand and bait.

By contrast, 2014 suggests that the Democrats’ ability to retain any mass constituency at all may now be in question. The facts of globalization, top heavy income inequality, and the world wide tendency toward austerity may just be too much for a party that is essentially dominated by segments of the 1 percent but whose legacy appeal is to average Americans.


I admire Thomas Ferguson’s analysis and his ability to follow the money trail in American politics.  Here is a link to the article quoted above and to some of Ferguson’s other work.

Americans Are Sick to Death of Both Parties: Why Our Politics Is in Worse Shape Than We Thought by Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson for Alternet.

Most Expensive Off-Year Election in History, an interview of Thomas Ferguson on the Real News Network.

Posted Prices and the Capitol Hill Stalemate Machine by Thomas Ferguson for the Washington Spectator (2011).   If you want to chair a congressional committee, there’s a minimum amount you have to raise in campaign contributions to your party.

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4 Responses to “Americans are sick to death of both parties”

  1. Gunny G Says:



  2. tiffany267 Says:

    I’m just bracing myself for the political insanity that may happen. In the meanwhile I plan to remain as openly satirical and hateful toward the feds as possible. Whether that will land me in a prison cell, I do not know. I am making no silly apocalypse plans, but I don’t blame anyone who thinks that way.


  3. prayerwarriorpsychicnot Says:

    Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs.


  4. danallosso Says:

    Reblogged this on dan allosso's blog and commented:
    Good post. It’s also worth noting that in the 2016 election, the Koch brothers and their allies may outspend the major parties. If this happens, will we hear about it? Will people understand that it means the two party system is basically over?


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