A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wins in November vote hide popular preferences

Bill Knight column for Mon, Tues., or Wed., Nov. 16, 17 or 18

Most news coverage after last week’s election pronounced it as proof that Americans are increasingly Right-wing. But big money and lousy turnouts were factors – and results were a mixed bag anyway. Huge wins came in Ohio, Maine and Seattle – where voters endorsed independent commissions to avoid gerrymandering districts to favor parties in power or enacted campaign-finance reforms – and 47 unionists were elected to local offices in New Jersey alone.

More importantly, media conclusions of rampant conservatism – and the yarn that private enterprise is the best way to help “job creators” – ignore popular opinion beyond the ballot box.

True, setbacks occurred in Kentucky and in Spokane, Wash. Despite support from the AFL-CIO, a Workers Bill of Rights lost in Spokane by a 62-38 percent margin in a 29 percent turnout. The city’s Republican mayor and council opposed it, as did business. Supporters raised $26,000 for the campaign; opponents raised $244,000. And in Kentucky, Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin won the governor’s race campaigning to stop participating in the Affordable Care Act despite half a million Kentuckians who would lose coverage if Bevin pulls out. (Democratic candidate Jack Conway didn’t get half a million votes.)

Some of this is the fault of the Democratic Party, which not only didn’t get out the vote, but failed to field decent candidates in key races and fell short in expressing the economic issues that the public embraces.

“While Americans disagree on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, they’re actually pretty unified on the bread-and-butter economic issues,” said Thom Hartmann, author of “Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country.”

Indeed, Gallup polls have shown a reliable, positive response to the question, “Do you think our government should or should not redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich?”

Also, according to Pew Research, 69 percent agree that the federal government should do something about income inequality.

Further, a 2014 Washington Post poll showed that most people favor a tax hike (also,45 percent of self-identified Republicans say upper-income citizens pay too little in taxes).

Perhaps it doesn’t fit the media narrative (or maybe newsrooms have cut back so much, a “pack mentality” is just more do-able than a deeper look).

More examples: A poll this year of likely 2016 voters by GBA Strategies for the Progressive Change Institute showed nine noteworthy – newsworthy – positions on economic issues:
* 59 percent support a national health-care plan like Medicare to compete with private insurers
* 62 percent say the rich pay too little in taxes
* 65 percent believe income inequality is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
* 66 percent back breaking up the ‘too big to fail” banks
* 71 percent support debt-free college at public universities
* 75 percent favor trade standards that protect workers, jobs and the environment
* 78 percent think the government should limit greenhouse-gas emissions
* 84 percent support equal pay for equal work
* 84 percent believe money has too much influence in elections

Also, Americans are supportive of organized labor, according to multiple polls from Gallup, which has polled about labor since 1936.

The highest level of support was in 1953, when 75 percent approved of labor unions. The lowest was in 2009 – and it still showed almost half of U.S. adults supported organized labor (48 percent). As of this August, it’s 58 percent.

Other Gallup findings:
* Confidence in labor as an institution: 66 percent said some, a lot or a great deal.
* Public opinion about labor’s power: 61 percent said unions should have the same or more influence.
* Americans’ attitude about labor’s value to members: 68 percent said unions mostly help.
* There’s a similar response as to unions’ effect on state and local governments where public employees are unionized: 47 percent say they mostly help (45 percent say they mostly hurt).
* Finally, people weighed in on the power of labor and other influences on government, and Americans say unions have too little or about the right amount of influence (compared to 67 percent who say major corporations and banks and financial institutions have too much and 71 percent who say lobbyists have too much).

“A poll in 2014 found almost half those asked wanted the government to provide a job to any citizen who cannot find work in the private sector,” said George Lakey, author of “Strategizing for a Living Revolution.”

“The American majority [is] considerably to the left of the Democratic Party on most issues,” Lakey continued.

There’s news that’s rarely shared in the national media.

[PICTURED: graphic from]

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