Why do all those working people people in rural America vote for the Repbulicans? Thomas Frank has brilliantly argued in Whatever Happened to Kansas why blue collar people in rural Anmerica stopped voting for the Democrats. During the last 15 years the midde class was getting smashed in many planes in rural America: small family farms were going bankrupt; small towns dependent on these family farms were being deserted; unionized jobs in such industries as meatpacking were being destroyed in Chicago as firms moved to Kansas and Nebraska setting much lower-paid nonunionized plants there. At the same time the Democratic Party unfortunately abandoned economic justice policies to help working people in the mid-1990s.
Since 1993 the Democratic Party has been dominated by right-wing group of the Democratic Leadership Council (D.L.C.) whose leaders are Clinton, Kerry, and Joe Liberman. The D.L.C. has repositioned the Democratic Party so it has abandoned economic justice issues which are very important for my family and millions of others. Thomas Frank said about Clinton, "Whether it was NAFTA, deregulation of various industries, or welfare reform, he basically adopted the Reagan agenda on economic issues." When Clinton signed off on N.A.F.T.A. he lost the House and the Senate to the Republicans in 1993. Did the Democrat Party learn enough from this? No.
Take 2004. Bush handed the Democrats an incredible issue—the high cost of drugs as well as his hypocritical pharmaceutical plan for seniors, which actually shoves billions at insurance companies and drug companies while not lowering prices of the drugs. Kerry proposed no plans for lowering drug prices. The next presidential nominee or Democratic senate candidates for the Democrats could say if president s/ he would have Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices; s/he could have seniors enroll in a government discount plan to cut costs; and s/he could said it was legal to import lower priced drugs from Candada. Well, the Democrats if they would truly fight for lower drug prices could get millions of seniors and others’ votes.
Bush’s dismal record on being the first president since Herbert Hoover losing jobs gave Kerry a great opportunity to pick up millions of votes. Kerry supported N.A.F.T.A. and W.T.O. (rammed through by President Clinton) that cement in an international system of trade laws encouraging outsourcing of U.S. jobs. Labor unions fought incredibly against NAFTA and WTO but lost. Blue collar voters, particulary in the red states like Kansas, often feel abandoned by the Democrats for supporting N.A.F.T.A. and the W.T.O. In the 1990s corporations moved millions of factory jobs overseas but after 2000 they are outsourcing middle class jobs such as information technology. According to Peter Hart, one of the leading researchers who does polls for the Democrats, “polling in battleground states showed that a bit more than half of all voters worry very often about jobs moving overseas (and three-fourths of swing voters say this loss of high-tech and white-collar jobs is a very serious problem). Ohio particularly has lost thousands of jobs; whole communities like Youngstown have been hurt.
Kerry did have a plan to give tax credits to businesses for hiring more jobs. There is no guarantee any jobs, particular middle class jobs, would be created but businesses who would hire minimum wage workers would have benefited. Kerry really offered tax credits to Wal-Mart. Giving tax credits to business to hire is a right-wing Reublican position. Kerry again lost voters in the swing states.
One easy way to generate jobs is for Democratic candidates to propose a government jobs program similar to FDR's W.P.A. program or Carter's C.E.T.A. program both of which had government jobs for the unemployed. They were both successful programs. These programs could be targeted to rural America where unemployment is high, giving rural voters in those red states a reason to vote for the Democrats. Secondly, Democratic candidates could abandon N.A.F.T.A. and the W.T.O., showing blue collar and white collar voters that Democrats are on their side. The debacle for Democrats started when Clinton signed off on N.A.F.T.A. It will send when the Demcoratic Party commits itself to getting rid of N.A.F.T.A.
As for education, I had researched how both federal and state governments had defunded public higher education by 15% from 1980-2005, making it extremely expensive for many families. Since government is giving 15% less money to public universities, they are forced to raise tuition and to get money from private sources. Kerry’s plan was giving tax credits for families for tuition, a dreadful idea when the federal government is deeply in debt. His plan would have not stopped ever increasing costs of college tuition and public universities endlessly searching for private monies. Again, his education plans did nothing for his candidacy. Instead Democratic candidates could have had a simple plan to make higher education more afforable: increase government spending to pubic universities so they cut tuition.
Regarding health care, 70% of Americas are worried about the ever-increasing health care costs. We in the United States already pay $400 billion for a waste, privatized health care system that is the most expensive in the world--$50 billion for profits and $350 billion for bureaucratic red tape of insurance companies et al. Kerry’s health care plan by having federal subsidies for low-income people to enroll them in private insurance companies was also dreadful. According to Steffie Woolhandler and Dr. David Himmelstein, “Kerry’s massive new spending would leave at least 17 million uninsured (by his own estimate) and tens of millions more with inadequate coverage, and stimulate the malignant growth of healthcare costs.” Instead of wasting more money on insurance companies, Democratic candidates should expand Medicare as Medicare is a much more economical program than insurance companies.
The Democratic Party have endorsed programs which in no way try to help rural America whose economy is worse than urban America. Instead they’ve supported policies that caused jobs to flee the country; accepted a for-profit health care system that the most expensive in the world but gives worst care than any industrialized countries; sat idly by while many public universities become out of reach of many working people. At that point many blue collar voters in rural America stopped voting for Democrats. The Republicans with their phony right-wing populism gathers in these voters for Republicans on cultural wedge issues such as anti-gay marriage or anti-abortion.
I would add in a heartless world that right-wing Democrats as well as the Bushes have wrought, the idea of faith is comforting. The emphasis on values for many working people is as result of the bleak economic landscape so many face: if jobs are leaving, college is expensive, health insurance premiums go up and up every year, what one can rely on but faith? In the past 150 years when peoples face economic disaster with no help in sight, they’ve often turned to faith and their local churches/synagogues/mosques for help. The churches often give real help: food, furniture, fellowship etc. If the Democrats don’t fight for economic populism, they cede working people to the Republicans.
Despite all the Republican attacks on Kerry as one of the most liberal senators, he wasn't that liberal at all but on the right-wing of the Democratic Party with a billionaire wife. The Republicans have been using this right-wing populism for decades to paint any Democratic presidential candidate as an elitist, so the Democrats should pick a candidate like F.D.R. with a proven record of fighting for progressive issues when he was governor of New York. And the candidate needs a wife like Elinor Roosevelt who had a record of helping those in need. People voted for F.D.R. because he symbolized change and hope. Kerry did not symbolize any difference. The Democrats again need to find candidates who can symbolize change and hope.
If Democrats want to ever win a national election again they need to fight for cheaper drug prices and government-run health programs because they do the best job; fight for government refunding of higher education; end their support for NAFTA and WTO; and propose a government jobs program that would actually create jobs like F.D.R. and Carter did.