Where Have All The Voters Gone?

Last Tuesday, Cincinnati was sent two messages:

1) Very few people in our City care about what happens in our City,

and

2) The people who DO pay attention, do not like the streetcar.

Now, these two facts can be dissected and analyzed all day long, but they are facts nonetheless.  So – kudos to the voters who showed up at the polls last Tuesday, victory is yours!  And “WAKE UP” to those who did not bother to vote, but are now upset that our City’s momentum is in jeopardy.

A final message to those who did not vote but are now upset (and then I will carry on with this post) – democracy & government do not happen by magic, they require your participation.

In happier news, many have flocked together to attempt and save the streetcar.  It is inspiring to see such effective grassroots organizing happening as we speak.  It has been a bit overwhelming, I’ll admit, as I still haven’t had time to really get my head back on straight after campaigning, but it is nice to have something on which to focus.

Lastly, as a way to segue into the body of this post, I would like to thank everyone for all of the support this year.  Team Moroski feels very pleased with what we accomplished.  We made numerous new friends, forged many new relationships, and opened a ton of new doors.  We’re not done yet – be sure you keep an eye out for us in 2017.

OK.  So, with all that said, where have all the voters gone?

Your guess is as good as mine, but I do have a theory.  My theory, it should be noted, only covers one demographic of the voting bloc, so do with it what you will.

Furthermore, my theory is predicated (in part) on a major point:  That John Cranley received roughly 5,000 less votes and 8,000 less votes than the total votes that shot down Issue 9 & 48 in 2009 & 2011, respectively (the ballot issues that were intended to kill the streetcar).

So, if we assume that people’s opinion did not change on the streetcar (which it didn’t – 16% of the electorate is hardly a “mandate”), then we must beg the question, where have all the voters gone?

Some voters thought the game was a wrap one way or the other; meaning, they thought their candidate would win no matter what (whether that be Council or Mayor).

Some, as WVXU points out, were not enticed to vote on something as un-sexy as a local election with no hot State or Federal issue on the docket.

Some didn’t know that we were electing a new Council & Mayor for four years.

Fine.  But who DID vote?

The older electorate voted.

Conservatives voted.

Some right-leaning liberals voted.

Some left-leaning liberals voted.

Some progressive voters voted.

Angry people voted.  A lot of them.

And good for all of those people.  Thank you for participating in our Local Democratic Process.  Seriously.  This is not tongue-in-cheek stuff right here.  Thank you.

And for those who didn’t vote?

Progressives, urbanists, hipsters – whatever you want to call them.  A lot of them did not vote.  If they had, the results would be very different.

I may not have won if they did vote, but I can tell you that Roxanne Qualls would have stood a better chance, Laure Quinlivan would have gotten elected, and probably Michelle Dillingham & Greg Landsman as well.

Their loss is attributable to two phenomena – the low turnout (obviously), and the Hamilton County Democratic Party endorsing ten people.  The Dems also did not stake a claim in the Mayoral race, leaving Democratic voters confused when there was only really one Democrat in the race and she did not win.

If the Dems had left their endorsements alone after their initial 9, it is without question that Quinlivan and Landsman would have won.  Who knows for Roxanne, but if they had given her the nod and left Mayor Elect John Cranley to his own devices with the Tea Party and GOP, then she would certainly have fared better.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party also took issue with the Young Democrats who had their own slate printed.  Their slate only had nine candidates, and one of the versions only had eight Democrat candidates with one Independent candidate on it.  While the Young Dems are permitted to print their own material, they were strongly urged to back out of passing out the slates.  Over night, it seemed, the Dems finally printed up their OWN slate – one with all 10 that was handed out at the polls.

It is time to rejuvenate the Democratic Party in this City.  Today, it appears we have the GOP, a slightly more palatable GOP (Dem Party), and a progressive culture.  The problem lies in the third group.  The progressive culture in this City is awesome, but it is quite clear after last week that it has not, as of yet, figured out how to harness its power into a truly progressive political force.

And that force may be within the Hamilton County Democratic Party.  I certainly hope so.  Maybe they just need a “wake up call.”

The past six days have found me running around town, answering phone calls, responding to e-mails, recording podcasts – all in my effort to bring progressive people together.

But, who the hell are “progressives” anyway?

I’ll be the first to say, “I don’t know.”

I have been called “progressive” because I believe that people experiencing homelessness & those returning from prison have rights.  Others, and myself, are called “progressive” because we believe in Marriage Equality.  In today’s Cincinnati, many are called “progressive” if they want a streetcar.

I suppose that last description is the one that is rallying everyone today.  The cause du jour, if you will.

I support the streetcar and I always have.  I have to say that I would love to see people as mobilized over ending hate crimes against the homeless as they are over the streetcar, but I digress.  For the purposes of this post, I am going to keep my focus on the streetcar.

So, why do I support the streetcar?

Simple.  I have three 10-year goals for Cincinnati – a 10% drop in the poverty rate, a 10% reduction in the recidivism rate, and a 10% increase in population.  It is that last 10% regarding population that will enable the first two 10%s to even happen.  We NEED to grow our City if we are ever going to be serious about alleviating the strains of poverty.  Human Services takes money, and we don’t have a lot of that.  Furthermore, the first thing to go during budget cuts is Human Services – with Parks & recreation not too far behind in 2nd place.  And, for the record, the streetcar’s construction is NOT taking away from the pot of money that funds Human Services.  Anyone who tells you that is being disingenuous.

John Cranley likes Human Services and he has a plan to help low-income people get jobs.  This is something I truly admire about our Mayor Elect.  The problem is that his vision is shortsighted.  How in the world does John Cranley expect to fund the City without revenue generation?  How does he intend to promote upward social mobility when different incomes are not encouraged to live next door to one another (the surest way for upward mobility to occur)?  Our City needs more small businesses, more young people, and more people with means.  One (of many) things I have learned in my career in the not for profit sector, and from studying nonprofit business, is that without money the poorest in our communities will continue to suffer the most.

It is simple economics.  We need the additional revenue before we can even start talking about creating a City who values ALL of her residents.  Yes, the conversations have already begun, and many are fighting for justice daily, but for them to be heard we need to have a means through which we can make City Hall strong enough to embrace every single citizen.

Is the streetcar the answer to this dilemma?  Absolutely not.  But, as I have said for years, it is PART of the solution.  We have to start somewhere to grow our City.

And. . .like it or not, the streetcar has become the symbol for so many things in Cincinnati.  So, as a writer, it is the metaphor that I use to guide this analysis.

The streetcar has become the symbol for so many in our City’s anger.  They may be upset that their neighborhood has been neglected for years (a valid concern, to be sure), they may be upset that the roads aren’t paved well enough (yet another valid concern), or they may be concerned that safety personnel’s jobs become political pawns every single budget cycle (a most significant and rightful concern).  No matter their concern, the streetcar has become the single easiest target for them as it somehow, in their minds, represents everything about which they are upset.  Fuel, it should be noted, was added to this fire by a number of Council candidates and one Mayoral candidate on the campaign trail.  This was disheartening for me to see.

One more point – the streetcar ALSO became the symbol and Holy Grail of many progressives in our City.  This was equally blinding as those who “fear” the streetcar, as there are SO many concerns in our City right now that need immediate attention.  That said, I have always found that getting one-issue-streetcar voters to understand the pressing need for affordable housing is FAR easier than someone who simply and unabashedly hates the streetcar (or Roxanne Qualls).  The streetcar became a symbol of our success as a City, a megaphone announcing to the Midwest that Cincinnati had finally made it.  To these voters’ credit, the tracks ARE in the ground, so it kind of DID seem like a “done deal. . . . . . . .”

. . . . . .wait for it. . . . . .

Enter Cincinnati Politics!

Stop!  Halt!  Wait!

“This is a waste of money!  This has no economic value!  This will take away police & fire jobs!”

(It should be noted that the above three statements are just simply untrue.)

So, here we are.  Cincinnati got what she voted for.  And now those who are concerned for our City are scrambling to get mobilized.

Details on tangible next steps will be coming out in the coming weeks via media outlets, Cincinnatians for Progress, and from individual community organizers like myself.  Stay tuned.

Opps.  Appears I got a tad bit de-railed.

(pun intended)

So.  If I am right and more people LIKE the momentum in Cincinnati than DON’T, then why the pathetic voter turnout?

I call them the “9/11 Progressives.”  These are 18 to 29 year olds who were 6 to 17 on September 11th, 2001.  I taught this age group and am very familiar with them.  Feel free to correct me, but I will tell you this about them:

– They LOVE community service

– They LOVE feeling connected to something (community, friends, smart phones)

– They LOVE cities because cities are more connected (communities, friends, networks)

The students I taught for 12 years are some of the most committed & caring people I have ever known.

So, why did so few vote?

Well, first of all, many DID vote and they are the very same ones that I am organizing with to combat a potential end to the streetcar project.  The ones that didn’t?  My theory follows.

A number of the 9/11 Progressives did not vote because they either thought everything would work out alright (very hopeful), or they didn’t really know what was going one (very disengaged).

Many of these folks were turned off of politics from childhood – what with watching an horrific attack on New York City, and then growing up in the midst of a never-ending war that a Cowboy President irrationally began, and a Liberal Peaceful President continued.  As a result, these progressives never saw what actual progressive politics looked like.  They DID see a lot of “9/11 Rhetoric,” i.e., leaders telling them to be afraid, that a phantasm was going to get them, that they had to believe everything they were told if they wanted to be safe.

(*Note:  No progressive political platform has ever really held elected office, but numerous progressive movements have indeed changed the course of history and influenced well-intentioned & courageous politicians.  Furthermore, I, too, have never seen any real progressive political platform in office, but since I have been paying attention since a young age, I know what they could look like.  In the case of the 9/11 Progressives, if they tuned out at an early age, then they do not know what this looks like.)

So, we get to Tuesday, November 5th, 2013.  These 9/11 Progressives (many, if not MOST, of them being supporters of the streetcar) were either just simply disengaged, or heard the “savior” rhetoric from Mayor Elect Cranley’s camp and bought it.  Either way, these very same people are quite disappointed today.  At least they woke up and are ready to hold our new local government accountable.

Whatever the cause, we are where we are.  I would encourage everyone who is upset with the turnout (and resulting Mayor & Council Elect) to take a breath, relax, regroup, and be sure that we all move forward with a unified voice.  I would also encourage everyone to not get nasty.  You can point fingers and shoot arrows of truth just as easily, and those often hurt more in the long run.

Also – retain hope in this Council.  I am not the least bit convinced that Mayor Elect Cranley will even get a majority of Council to agree to cancel the project.  I got to know all 9 of those folks very well on the campaign trail and I can tell you that they are logical, intelligent, and pragmatic people.  It is one thing to say that you hate the streetcar on the trail to get elected, it is quite another to hijack your political career by signing your name to cancel something that will not only COST you money, but set you up to experience revenue declination for years to come.

Yes, that is quite another thing indeed.

So, stay hopeful and stay tuned.  There is much organization to be done, and it is all happening quickly.

The main point is this:  We need to harness our progressive culture in this City and turn it into a truly Progressive Political Force.  And not just for the streetcar, not at all.  For the people of our City.  For the homeless and those struggling to make ends meet.  For the middle class family trying to get by.  For the C-Suite executive who can enable others in our City to aspire to his/her level.  For everyone.

Unity Assists.

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