The Danger of Disenfranchisement…

Over Thanksgiving weekend I was talking to a friend of mine about the mayoral election in New York City. This friend has always been politically engaged – perhaps to a bigger extent than I. She responded to my query with a sigh…”I just can’t get jazzed about any political candidate. Nothing any of them have done in the past 20 years has accomplished anything except to make my life harder.”

Apathy – The calm before the storm…

We all talk about the apathetic citizen who doesn’t vote and doesn’t care. And it is true that a certain percentage of the population couldn’t find their way into a voting booth if their lives depended on it. But what of the voters that DO care? They are politically informed and make to the polls for every election. My friend is such a citizen. She is well-read, informed and very active in her union. When you start to regularly get that “meh” response from that kind of a voter, the country is in serious trouble.

When the public feels that they have no say in anything, when they feel they are being duped by campaign rhetoric, when they have the sneaking suspicion that their views and needs are irrelevant, that’s when the normally active voter starts to disengage. When people are betrayed by their own system of government, the first instinct is to simply disconnect. Over the past 8 or 9 years I have been watching and wondering what it would take to get people out of the stupor of indifference.

In 2007 when the sub-prime loan mess came to the forefront and when the market crashed to the floor in 2008, I thought surely this would bring a resurgence of populist anger which would force a favorable response from the political powers that be. I expected marching in the streets. I expected righteous anger being vented at 30 years of trickle-down voodoo economics. I expected the big bankers and Wall Street robber barons to start doing very public perp walks. I expected those that caused the crash to be held to account and pay for the mess they made. That didn’t happen.


What I didn’t realize was this: Disenfranchisement happens over time. The results of hijacking the legislative agenda can take many years to be felt on Main Street. By the time the majority of the people feel this impact, the political process that created these issues is so entrenched that it takes monumental force to reverse it.

So instead of real reform we got tea-baggers on the right stepping on the supply side gas and winning in a landslide mid-term election in 2010. We got a Congress bent on doing nothing except making sure Obama didn’t get a second term. We got the “Citizens United” decision from the Supreme Court. We had one nightmare after another regarding the ACA. We also had a president who seemed content to take advice from the very people who had caused the financial meltdown. We got a jobs bill (Ok – good for Obama) that can’t get to the floor of either house of Congress in spite of record unemployment. The 2012 election was all about “jobs, jobs, JOBS”. But you would never have known that once the votes were counted.

Small wonder that normally engaged people are saying “meh” to just about any candidate. It is plainly obvious to anyone with a brain that the ordinary citizen simply doesn’t matter, so why bother? But to those in the financial elite who think that this means all is well, I offer a sharp warning: There is nothing more dangerous than squeezing the hungry masses.

The tipping point…

As we speak, millions of formerly middle and even upper class families are becoming the “new poor”. People who once had jobs, self respect, the respect of the community, some money in their pocket and a reasonable lifestyle do not take kindly to having all that taken from them. They particularly don’t like it when they see a small tiny elite raking it in with both arms at their expense. Empty bellies (and there are many who are hungry in America today) are the stuff of which revolutions are made.

Yes, John and Jane Q. Public have been asleep for the last 30 years, but that doesn’t mean they will go quietly into that good night of destitution. The complacency has been based on an assumption that all will be well when the economy finally “turns around”. But after 30 years of waiting, everyone’s patience is pretty much spent, and more and more of the middle class are falling into the abyss. As poverty overtakes them, “meh” can pivot quickly to anger.

Anger appears to be gathering momentum. You can see unrest in the air as worker protests increase and calls to “soak the rich” get louder and more insistent. The elite should be smart and realize that their 30 year party of exploitation is nearly over and that change is in the air. The wise among them will hopefully be in front of the curve. You see, I would very much prefer the coming revolution to be won with the stroke of a pen. Civil unrest and violence is far more damaging.

© 2013 – RGHicks – – All rights reserved.



4 Responses to The Danger of Disenfranchisement…

  1. Suzanne Arena says:

    I’ve heard a quieter and louder arguments along these lines from people. Though, none so elegant. some feel the answer is in ,of all things the Libertarians! Others are simply giving up. Others, still, are predicting a bloody revolution. This, in simple conversation, regarding the lack of empathy for the 98%. It is sad.

  2. Ruthmarie says:

    Thanks Suzanne…the point is that the ability of the elite to control the dialogue is failing as more and more people slip into poverty. There IS a tipping point and a day or reckoning. Its taken surprisingly long to even get this far. But people with empty stomachs who are losing their homes will not go quietly into that good night. They never have and they never will.

  3. Suzanne Arena says:

    How can I share this?

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