Act Like An Owner

Pulitzer Prize winning author and investigative reporter David Cay Johnston ended a conversation with Chauncey DeVega (11-27-19) by saying:

“Nov. 3 is coming. We have the power, it’s our country, we own it. We own our government. We should act like owners. What we’re seeing in Donald Trump, who is just the symptom of deeper problems, is the wages of 40 years of people renting out their interest in the government, saying, “Let somebody else take care of it. We’re going to behave like renters.” We can’t do that if we want to be a free people. The American people must be civically engaged. Having to go vote and volunteer some time is nothing compared to all of those gravesites in the Philippines, in France and in Germany, of American soldiers who died for this country. All those Americans in the Union who died in the Civil War. To not be a citizen is to disrespect what they gave up their lives for. We need to take the responsibility of being a citizen seriously. Not just talk. Not just griping on the internet. Act like an owner. It’s important.”

Analysis finds this statement to contribute a partial accounting for the dismal results of the recent Newark Ohio city wide election; dismal, not in the sense of outcome but for the historic low voter turnout, in an election determining three at large city council representatives as well as the mayor‘s office. “Voter participation in the Newark mayoral race fell to the lowest level in a quarter century, with fewer than 10,000 votes cast for the first time since at least 1991. Mayor Jeff Hall, a Republican, won a third term with fewer than 5,000 votes in a growing city of 50,000 residents and 30,000 registered voters. Voter turnout in the city dropped to 27.6%, down from 36% in 2015, and 43% in 2011. Turnout in mayoral election years varied from 41% to 48% from 1995 through 2011. In 1995, when the city had 6,000 fewer residents, 12,300 voted, or 48%. This year, only 8,403 voted for mayor.” (Kent Mallet, The Advocate, Voter turnout in Newark hits quarter century low in mayoral elections,11-24-19). Analysis doesn’t know where to begin. For all the rhetoric and reassurance by the Democratic candidates of engaging the community and being out in the neighborhoods the fact remained that they just couldn’t get people to come out and vote. This resonates ominously on a state wide as well as a national election level. What good is all the talk of “electability,” bemoaning gerrymandering and vote suppression when you can’t deliver existing registered voters to the polls, not to even entertain the vote itself? Perhaps the emphasis and focus is awry. It is common knowledge, reinforced by US Census data, that almost exactly half of Newark residential housing is non-owner occupant. By correlation one could legitimately surmise that half the registered voters are renters. Maybe the actual and real challenge coming up in 2020 is overcoming the “Let somebody else take care of it. We’re going to behave like renters.” disposition prevalent in America today (and ever growing). With an incumbent who spends lifetime’s of presidential salaries on golf and potential Democratic Party candidates vying for the nomination to oppose him including multiple billionaires, no wonder the American electorate feels inclined to “Let somebody else take care of it. We’re going to behave like renters.” It appears to be no more than a replacement of one landlord for another. Few non-GOP politicians are cultivating the message that “it’s our country, we own it. We own our government. We should act like owners.”. Rather it’s “if we win, we can stop being renters.” Really (and if we lose?)? “We need to take back our country.” Like it wasn’t always ours? And even varying articulations of “negotiating a better deal.” Sounds a lot like renewing a rental agreement to begin with! Analysis finds it to be no coincidence that the Democrat party’s challenge in 2020 is one of displacing an actual and for real landlord. But then what? The real challenge remains one of “We need to take the responsibility of being a citizen seriously. Not just talk. Not just griping on the internet. Act like an owner.”

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