This comment in Vetwife's diary got my brain turning over a subject that has been bothering me for some time.
I live in Alabama, a strong bastion of conservative ideology. We're not a purple state like Florida, but I believe there are enough liberals here for Democrats to be competitive in elections. Most of them simply don't vote. There are many documented reasons for this, but one thing that I've personally seen when talking to people really disturbs me: a black hole of absolute political hopelessness.
My hometown of Birmingham has a decent lefty presence so most of the people I know are liberals of some stripe, and most of any new people I meet are as well. Talk frequently turns to politics and that quickly leads to everyone agreeing on most issues (healthcare, LGBT issues, safety net, war, corporate control of nearly everything) while disagreeing on others (mostly guns). Then we start talking about what candidates we support and who we vote for.
And then I discover I'm one of only a couple people, and sometimes the absolute only person, who votes.
So naturally I start asking why people don't vote and I get answers like, "It can't possibly ever matter here because Republicans will always win 65%-35%." I think that's a rubbish answer but I can at least understand it. I try to combat that by explaining that if everyone who felt that way voted maybe it would be a lot closer than they'd ever realize.
Then I get the answer that leaves me completely flabbergasted: "Both parties are the same shit so it doesn't matter who you vote for."
I answer this the typical way I do when I see this apathetic statement in online arguments: by going over substantial policy differences that have an impact on people's lives. However, what I'm encountering is not the disinterested, uninformed attitude of these online arguments. I'm seeing it come from a place of rage, abandonment, and fatalism. Beliefs that both parties are conspiring to lead us to a permanent state of war, that literally everything is rigged against us, and that life as someone who isn't born to riches is going to get more brutal and more painful with no possibility of mitigating it forever.
Understand that these are not people who come to Daily Kos and read about good things Democrats are doing every day, but they're also not completely uninformed. They're normal people, mostly lower and lower middle class and roughly evenly divided between white and black, going through their lives and feeling the crunch. Feeling personal debt (especially student loans) become more and more oppressive while local Dems get arrested for corruption. Watching continued military involvement in the Middle East that just never seems to make any difference except wasting money and getting people killed. Police murdering and raping and beating citizens pretty much every single day. Hell, food even tastes shittier than it did just 10 years ago (I don't know, during that time I became a vegetarian and don't eat much of the same food I used to, but I hear this a lot.)
It's something I'm at a loss to even begin to tackle, even on a one-on-one basis. There are obviously issues where I feel that Democratic leaders have failed, taken the morally wrong position, or come up short. After all, no relationship is perfect. But when I see the many good things that have been accomplished nationally over the past six years and all the terrifying things that have been avoided, I know there's a reason to exercise the power that I have as a citizen and vote.
What I don't know how is to fight the level of distrust of the party that I see in non-voting liberals when it's coming from a place of such intense hopelessness. And even though I don't agree with it, that hopelessness does exist and it is a problem. And I think that we need these people, so how do we reach them? What does the Democratic Party need to do?