Lost in the exaggerated numbers of Tuesday’s primary election vote totals is this very frightening reality: Less than 8 percent of the electorate is all it takes to amass political power in our county.
The population of Santa Clara County is 1,787,694 people according to the 2010 census. Total voter registration is 755,117—or 42.2 percent of the population. While there are many people in that who are ineligible to vote, (i.e. children, non-citizens, felons), the voter registration figures still amount to around 50 percent of all those who are eligible to vote.
Noting the turnout for Tuesday’s election in our county will be around 37 percent of the registered voters, and it takes 50 percent plus one vote to win an election, that means less than 8 percent of the entire population is all that is needed to determine the outcome for the rest of us. The percentage statewide was even less, as turnout was slightly worse than our county. This is our alleged democracy in reality.
Financial participation gives a smaller, elite minority even more political power in political campaigns, which far exceeds that of an average voter.
The major players in this group are mostly in the top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans, or they are multinational corporations with a major interest in the government policies that result from elections. The tobacco companies spent $50 million against Prop 29, and while it’s still a close call, currently more than 50 percent of the electorate statewide bought the message.
Here are some other disturbing statistics involving reality and perceptions. Fifty percent of all Americans are poor or low income. Republicans like to point out how unfair it is that these people don’t pay taxes. Conversely, 70 percent of Americans believe they will be in the top 10 percent of wealth in the U.S. Collectively, this shows that Americans are unbelievably optimistic, not very good at math or have been influenced by the false narrative of FOX News and the Republican right. It could be a combination of all three.
Another myth: Working hard is all it takes to make it in America. The majority of the wealthy do not make their money from labor; they make it from capital. That is the definition of capitalism: money makes more money.
Because the top 1 percent participates in the financing of elections and it takes less than 6 percent of the population to gain political power, it doesn’t take a genius to understand why public policy in this nation favors the wealthiest 10 percent generally and the top 2 percent especially.
It’s the reason we have a wealth gap and why Mitt Romney is even with President Obama in the polls. It is why Republicans do not pay a political price for their support of the top 2 percent in wealth, why tobacco companies continue to spread their poison, why GE pays no income tax, why Donald Trump can declare bankruptcy and keep his fortune, why banks are bailed out yet homeowners are foreclosed upon, why Halliburton can commit fraud and not have to pay their fines, why the Obama Healthcare plan is a boon to private insurance companies, why Warren Buffett’s secretary pays a higher tax rate than her boss, and why, regardless of party, the poor and the dispossessed in this country are scapegoated for our major problems, while the power elite is revered as our country’s saviors “job creators” despite all evidence to the contrary.
A revolution in this country is badly needed. It need not be violent, though the conditions are becoming such that the wealthy might start worrying more about losing their heads rather than fretting about their inconsequential tax rate. But the means of a nonviolent revolution are available, and the dispossessed need to educate themselves and participate in their own democracy.
Failing that revolution, the wealth gap will only get larger. The power elite spent $60 million in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has waged war on the minimal protections that currently exists for lower income people. Once labor’s ability to provide political information, a voice and power to the electorate is completely silenced, the power elite will be the only source of political information. This is the ultimate goal of the war on labor and the Walker agenda.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate the winners in Tuesday’s election. Mayor Chuck Reed, Rose Herrera, Peirluigi Oliverio, Kansen Chu, Ash Kalra and Jimmy Nguyen. Civility has become a lost art in our politics. We can fight during an election and respect each other and the results after the election, even if our democracy is flawed.
However, there is an exception to that rule: I will not congratulate the tobacco industry—one need not be civil to the mass murderers, purveyors of poison, and dishonest campaign messengers, even if they win.