By Ralph Nader
All political eyes are on Georgia’s runoff election on January 5th, 2021. Two Senate seats are up for grabs and will decide whether the evil Trumpster and corporatist Senator Mitch McConnell stays in total control of the U.S. Senate or not.
If the Democrats win both seats, the Senate would be split, 50-50. Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as President of the Senate, and in the case of tied votes have the deciding vote. The Democrats could also take control of the Senate, choose the Committee Chairs, and set the rules for moving legislation to the floor.
Georgia is normally a Republican state. But on November 3rd, the state chose Joe Biden over Donald Trump by about 12,670 votes. The two incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler failed to win a majority of the votes. This triggered a runoff against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Money is pouring into all candidates’ coffers. The runoff may see spending reach $400 million. Much of this money will be misspent on high-priced TV and social media ads with little content and mind-numbing repetition. Voters get irritated by such jackhammer “messaging.”
There are over six million registered voters in Georgia. Nearly two-thirds are white and one-third are black Americans. The politicians and their rich media consultants think they know how to “process” these voters. They believe people first vote for the Party, reflecting the hereditary way their grandparents and parents voted. Second, they believe people vote based on their feelings toward the candidates. Third, if the voter is still undecided, politicians believe people will vote based on candidates’ policy positions.
In his groundbreaking book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (2008), Emory University Psychology professor Drew Westen, argues that when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins. But emotion can include a strong desire for a good life and a decent livelihood with good-paying, safe jobs. Emotion can also demand justice, peace, and respect for Mother Earth, nurturing children, and giving voice to the people between elections.
Emotion can also mean that voters, who do not do their homework, allow themselves to be manipulated. Politicians are very good at the three “F’s” – flattering, fooling, and flummoxing uninformed and unprepared voters. For example, if voters are single-issue-minded – say on the matter of abortion or tax cuts – they won’t care about any of the other positions of the candidate who agrees with them on their one and only big “yes-no” issue. The more policies that voters demand candidates address, the less vulnerable voters are to the three “F’s.”
Now, in Georgia, the Democrats are stressing health care (but not full Medicare-for-All) and Trump’s disastrous approaches to the surging Covid-19 pandemic. They are also going after the conflict-of-interest stock trading of the two wealthy Republican Senators. And, of course, the Democratic candidates are presenting themselves as better candidates.
Although grassroots groups such as FairVote and Black Voters Matter are registering and getting out significant numbers of voters, the Georgia Democratic Party, with its overflowing campaign funds, is largely using the extremely narrow national Democratic Party messaging playbook. This is a big mistake.
The Democrats must instead appeal to the white, blue-collar voters, whom for years, the Party has left behind for Republican Party deceivers to win over.
One of the most compelling needs for these voters is higher wages. The message should be “Go Vote Yourself a Raise” with the explanation that the U.S. House Democrats have already passed a $15 an hour bill to replace, in stages, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which was frozen by the Senate Republicans including Senators Perdue and Loeffler.
Over 30 million workers in the U.S. earn less than $15 per hour. That means lots of Georgia’s low-income workers are making less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than workers made in 1968! They’ve been cheated for a long time. (In the U.S., returns to labor have been falling behind the larger returns to capital).
A multi-media focus on “Go Vote Yourself a Raise” will produce a deep-imprint message. It requires no fancy explanation as would a complex insurance proposal. It relates to voters where they live, work, and raise their children and therefore appeals to all affected voters regardless of political labels such as “conservative” or “liberal.”
It is also a good way to start judging politicians with specifics about the question: “Whose side are you on?” Candidates should be pushed to say if they stand with the super-rich profiteering, callous Big Business tycoons or with the people who work for pitiful wages, on the rugged frontlines, and keep our society running day in and day out.
Political Parties and their Campaign Committee operatives are not open to receiving good ideas. They think if they’ve got the money, they’ve got what’s needed. The weak performance of the cash-loaded Democratic Party in the November election belied such confidence. Apart from Biden’s victory, the Democratic Party lost the Senate, barely kept the House, and did not flip one state legislature against the worst, most cruel, and corrupt GOP in the Republican Party’s history.
There is still time to campaign in a way that will reach the working people of Georgia. Contact Professor Drew Westen at [email protected] who is brimming with ideas on what can be done to increase voter turnout. People nationwide have an immediate stake in Georgia’s run-off election. Motivating result-oriented voters is the key to defeating the Republicans and deposing Mitch McConnell.