Welcome back to the weekly Nuts & Bolts Guide to small campaigns. It’s Super Bowl Sunday, so if you are here reading this in real-time, then you are thinking about the difference in America between the haves and have-nots. Watching the game at your house is one thing, attending a game like the Super Bowl in person? We are talking an expense that runs from $6,600 to $100,000 per ticket. Imagine that as an expense. Most Americans can’t, as they fall into the trap of poverty and live paycheck to paycheck. The Super Bowl is attractive to viewers is because it allows for escapism. It is a chance to put aside the anxiety of just day-to-day living.
This is where voter suppression adds to the long term damage. We have setup a social system that encourages concepts that are just not realistic or sound. Let me put this in the clearest of terms: if you are someone who earns $100 a day and you spend $5, that is 5%. If you earn $25 and you spend $5, then you have just spent 20%. Indifference to poverty creates serious problems for democracy, as those who are poor need a system of government that cares about their input, and without that we create a permanent caste system.
White Space, Black Hood
Sheryll Cashin argues in her book, “White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity hoarding and segregation in the age of inequality” that through legislative design, a great deal of opportunity to find your way out of poverty has been removed. Republicans scream that should “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” out of poverty. Well, that is a great idea, except when the boot is being pushed down on your neck and holding you down to the ground. Voters in poverty vote significantly less than voters above the poverty line. How much less? Nearly 20 points less. A full 68% of voters in households at twice the poverty line vote. If you are below twice the poverty line, you vote at about 46% of the rate.
This is a huge number of untapped voters that are waiting for campaigns and candidates to speak to them. We may hate to hear it, but Donald J. Trump spoke to some of these voters with ideas he proposed in 2016 that “billionaires would hate him” and he would “break up the system.” Remember THIS nonsense from Trump?
Trump has hammered Wall Street in recent speeches, wants to raise taxes on the rich and has embraced policies that will hurt many multinational companies.
"Wall Street hates him because he is a class traitor," said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group. "He has bought into the populist rhetoric that Wall Street is greedy and makes too much money...He sounds more anti-Wall Street than Elizabeth Warren."
Of course, we know now it was all complete nonsense. CNN and everyone else who promoted this idea at the beginning had a pretty good idea it was nonsense. Even to this day, though, Trump worked to sell the idea he was “anti-government.” Why did this work? Because the working poor wanted a path out. Democratic offers of a path out to many rural white voters were not as well promoted, so Trump managed to effectively pit groups against each other, telling poor red-state voters thahe real reason they couldn’t get ahead was because of poor minority communities. He appealed to their fear.
There is a clear racial problem with our handling of poverty
Poverty has been used as a means to stop change within our political discourse. It is also a tool that shuts out many black and brown voters from even getting to the ballot box. We sometimes forget the social contract that exists between all of us and our local and state government. We all pay taxes on goods we buy, sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, and some pay “sin taxes” on items like cigarettes and spirits. All of these funds can be used by the government for services we all need to improve communities.
If you are a poor person contributing tax dollars through a tank of gas, a lot of those tax dollars are being pulled out of your community and being invested in more expensive neighborhood attractions.
So how do we open the discussion and reach into communities, and help turn out voters? Republicans will work as diligently as possible to make it difficult. It is up to us, to work to help make a difficult process possible.
We can help voters vote
Think in your state, with your state voting rights advocates about the items that are most needed to help people vote. Focus on a few things and put your effort into helping to turn out an unexpected voter base. When people are in doubt, they vote for change. When you are the party that holds the White House, that is generally not good. For people in poverty, however, you can present the opportunity of true change in government that will do a better job representing them.