In the 2020 election, working voters need to focus on candidates’ platforms… and actions
As we enter the 2020 election year, it’s time for working people to prepare for a barrage of propaganda aimed at getting us to vote against our own interests. A phenomenon that happens in virtually every American election at every level of government, true. But never with more cold-blooded calculation than when the quadrennial presidential race rolls around.
Before continuing, it’s worth reviewing the meaning of the term “propaganda.” The Oxford English Dictionary offers two definitions that are useful in the context at hand:
A) An organization, scheme, or movement for the propagation of a particular doctrine, practice, etc.
B) The systematic dissemination of information, esp. in a biased or misleading way, in order to promote a political cause or point of view. Also: information disseminated in this way; the means or media by which such ideas are disseminated.
The first definition refers to what we typically call “public relations” in modern English. But the second refers to what English speakers generally understand the term to mean: Lying to the public for political gain. And that is how I am using “propaganda” here.
There is always power at stake in any political contest. The higher the office, the higher the stakes. So it is no surprise that the higher the office, the more that propaganda will be used by various political factions (at home and abroad) to deceive voters and win the election.
President of the United States is the highest office in the land. The political factions vying to control that position—and all the many appointed jobs that go with it—represent our society’s most powerful interests. The ones that control the commanding heights of our capitalist economy being first among them. And the amount of propaganda deployed by those factions, therefore, beggars belief.
Given that, average working voters—people who consider themselves poor, working class, or middle class (groups that all include unemployed people, as I wrote in my “Local Voting Primer for Working People” recently)—need to take great care to avoid falling for the many sophisticated lies that will be sent our way in the 2020 presidential election.
Since I can’t prefigure what propaganda will be used by the different powerful political factions in advance, and I can’t give all my readers the kind of news analysis training I’ve taught at the university level, the most helpful thing I can do is to list some major policy areas and suggest what kinds of positions working voters should look for in the platforms of presidential candidates likely to keep their interests front and center (and candidates for lower offices where applicable).
Several of the policy prescriptions I mention here have already been implemented in some form in other capitalist democracies—and in some cases in the US. I do not expect presidential candidates to back most of them as written, but I do expect candidates who care about working voters to incorporate many of the key ideas below into their platforms.
We need to reinstitute a strong graduated income tax and equally strong taxes on corporations. To ensure that businesses and the rich pay their fair share of taxes, so that our government has the cash on hand to provide for the needs of working people first and foremost.
We need good jobs with living wages and benefits. And government jobs programs for people who can’t find work in the private sector. We also need much more generous unemployment benefits. Plus heavy regulation to prevent companies from misusing the many forms of unstable “contingent” (e.g., temp, day labor, contract, etc.) jobs to save money on labor costs. Unionization needs to be made automatic anytime workers want to form a union on the job.
We need universal public healthcare for all. There is no substitute. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege… and most certainly not a commodity. Whatever the reform is called—single-payer healthcare, Medicare for all, or socialized medicine—most people need it desperately. Any candidate who doesn’t back it unequivocally is no friend of working voters.
Everyone in the country needs a decent place to live. Housing is also a right in a democratic society. If the market can’t or won’t provide good affordable housing, then the government needs to step in and build enough quality social housing (think European-style public housing much better than most American public housing to date) to end both homelessness and substandard housing arrangements. Rent control and other stopgap measures need to be implemented to keep rents affordable while the new housing is built.
Every qualified person in the country should be able to attend taxpayer-funded public schools from kindergarten to graduate school, K-20, free of charge (beyond taxes). All individual college debt up to the point where that system is instituted should be forgiven. Ultimately, we should move to a public education system that is free cradle to grave.
We need to move away from burning carbon (coal, oil, and gas) and using dangerous nuclear reactors to provide our energy, and over to clean environmentally-sustainable energy sources as fast as possible to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming. We also need to nationalize energy utilities and energy companies to take energy production off the market. Until our government does this, those companies will force our society to continue to burn carbon until the planet is destroyed.
We need a nationwide network of good public transportation, and we need to move away from a transportation system based on individually owned carbon-burning motor vehicles. Anyone living anywhere in the US should be able to get anywhere else in the US on such a network for free or cheap. Creating that new system will provide huge numbers of jobs and help this nation to do its part to reduce carbon emissions before global warming ends human civilization.
We need a Green New Deal to slow global warming’s destructive progress and save human civilization. Such a program will provide a large number of public jobs building America’s new carbon-free energy and transportation infrastructures. Good candidates will back it. Bad candidates not only won’t, but instead will back worse policies (or no policies) that will ensure that the more dire global warming projections by climate scientists are locked in by 2030.
New immigrants are not competing with working Americans for most jobs, and pay taxes like everyone else. We need to provide an easy legal path to citizenship for everyone who wants to come here, stop deporting nonviolent non-criminal immigrants and refugees who cross our borders without proper documentation or have been denied extensions to Temporary Protected Status in recent years, immediately give citizenship to young DREAMer immigrants brought here by their families as children, shut down the baby concentration camps for immigrant children, abolish Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and prosecute culpable ICE officials and the politicians who empowered them for crimes against humanity.
We need to significantly reduce the number of Americans in prisons—particularly black and Latino inmates who are often handed sentences far harsher than white people who committed the same crimes, and are overrepresented behind bars relative to other groups because of institutional racism. As such, we must decriminalize nonviolent offences like simple possession of controlled substances. And decontrol many of said substances. We should look into pursuing restorative justice wherever possible and minimizing punitive justice. We also need to ban private prisons.
Massive “defense” spending is crippling the country’s ability to pay for key social programs. We need to make huge cuts to the military budget—aimed not at reducing funding for soldiers, but at reducing the stratospheric spending on weapons systems of questionable usefulness. As well as stopping endemic corruption in military contracting. The entire US arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons must be dismantled as part of this process—both because of their expense and because we must join many other nations in banning weapons of mass destruction before our government gets in a conflict that (as with global warming, but faster) ends human civilization. Also, we must stop instigating and participating in conflicts with foreign countries for the benefit of major corporations.
Do your best to be an informed working voter and you’ll be fine. Get your news from a variety of reputable news sources from across the political spectrum. Pay careful attention to each candidate’s views on key issues, and how they have acted politically in the service of those views. Ballotpedia.org is an excellent resource to consult when checking candidates’ records.
Just remember: always watch what candidates do, and how it jibes with they say. Candidates whose deeds don’t match their stated beliefs should be crushed at the polls.
Apparent Horizon—recipient of 2018 and 2019 Association of Alternative Newsmedia Political Column Awards—is syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jason Pramas is BINJ’s executive director, and executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston. Copyright 2019 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.