In Search of an Independent Moral Voice in American Politics

by

Congress will end the month of May without renewing jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed that were cut off at the end of last year. House Speaker John Boehner rails against the Obama administration for failing to create jobs, but apparently blames unemployed workers for not having one.

There is a stark divide between the actions in Washington and the opinions of most Americans. Americans overwhelmingly support broad sensible reforms that will help working families, including renewing unemployment benefits.

A new study released by the Campaign for America’s Future, “The American Majority is a Populist Majority,” reports on recent polling data.

Nearly three fourths of Americans (73 percent) favor increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Republican House Speaker John Boehner won’t let that come to a vote in the House, and Senate Republicans have blocked it in the Senate.

Three fourths of Americans (75 percent) favor a government job creation program to hire 1 million people. The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget that proposed a large jobs program got less than 100 votes in the House.

Nearly three fourths of Americans (71 percent) favor increasing government investment to build and repair roads, bridges and other infrastructure needs. But Congress has failed even to replenish the Highway Trust Fund that is about to be exhausted.

Thus far, this divide between public opinion and congressional action has had confusing political fallout. Congress is near record lows in public approval. But Republicans who have obstructed virtually every reform seem to be profiting. Pundits now favor them to keep control of the House and possibly take the majority in the Senate.

A big reason for this, we’re told, is the fall off of Democratic voters from the core of the Obama majority — people of color, young people and single women.

They were hit the hardest in the economy and have struggled in the so-called recovery. Like most Americans, they don’t have time or energy to sort out Washington’s bickering and figure out who is to blame. So generally, the party of the president gets more of the blame.

What is missing is an independent moral voice, a movement that isn’t about left or right, Democrats or Republicans, but is challenging legislators from the moral center. Without that, Democratic operatives tend to extol technique, the techniques they’ve mastered to target, contact and get out their voters. Republican operatives tend to emphasize money, the money they are able to raise from the billionaire and corporate lobbies that play an increasing role in our elections.

Citizen movements with a moral voice transform politics. In many ways, this was the lesson of Obama’s victory in 2008. He sensibly caught the wave of mass public dismay at the Iraq debacle. The candidacy of his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, was in many ways capsized by that wave. His Republican opponent, John McCain, couldn’t overcome the desire of Americans for change.

Could a citizen’s movement upend expectations this fall? A populist movement is stirring in the country. We see it in the cities and states raising the minimum wage, not waiting for Washington. We see it in the protests of low wage workers in the fast food industry, in the Moral Monday’s mobilizations in North Carolina now spreading to other states. We see it even in the rock star status accorded to the French economist Thomas Piketty and his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” on inequality.

If this continues to build, the pundits may be surprised. Voters may turn out in greater numbers than expected either to punish incumbents or to support challengers who carry a populist message. Washington political pros tend to focus on the results of polls, but polls are but a snapshot of passing attitudes. Movements don’t respond to polls; movements mold opinion. The next months may be more interesting than many now expect.

Jesse Jackson founded Rainbow/PUSH.

 

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire