“Will of the People” vs. Political Process: A View From the U.S.

It’s no secret that the political process in the U.S. has devolved from “consensus” to “contest,” with political factions on the Left (“liberals”) championing the inclusion of marginalized groups, freedom of choice and environmental concerns; while those on the Right (“conservatives”) increasingly standing for preserving the status quo, if not rolling back some progressive advances, and privilege, particularly of white males.

After this year’s Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, threatening women’s right to have an abortion, I read a report that, according to surveys, most people in the U.S. support abortions being legal. How, I asked, can this be – or, more accurately, why isn’t this majority view reflected in the law of the land? And how many other social issues have the same disconnect, where the majority view is not manifest in legislation and social programs?

I’m a songwriter, and look to the traditions of folk music, particularly the topical or “protest” genre, to illuminate the realities of the US political landscape. I wanted to write a song that looked at the disconnect between the will of the people and political processes from three perspectives: what do “the people” really want? Are their desires being achieved, and if not, what is preventing it? And how can we give “the people” what they really want?

I started by looking at major social issues in the U.S. today: abortion. Gun safety. LGBT rights. Health care. Police reform. Immigration. Economic security. Climate change. I searched the Internet for current surveys on these issues, from reliable polling organizations, to find out what it is “the people” really want. My findings were stark (I’m including links to the surveys I relied on)

* Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans surveyed approve same-sex marriage

* Seventy-one percent (71%) feel gun laws should be made more strict

* Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Americans surveyed favor nondiscrimination protections of members of the LBGT community

* Seventy percent support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants

* Sixty-two percent (62%) support raising the minimum wage to $15

* Over 60% of Americans believe abortion should be legal

* Fifty-nine percent (59%) believe it’s more important to control gun violence than protect gun rights

* Sixty-five percent (65%) say Government is doing too little to address climate change. Sixty-nine percent (69%) support developing alternate sources of energy (wind, solar)

* Fifty-five percent (55%) support Medicare for all; 68% support a government health care option

* Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Americans surveyed say change is needed to improve how police serve the public

* Fifty-four percent (54%) support the separation of church and state

These surveys make the case that the majority of Americans want the progressive agenda that the Left’s “liberals” have at the core of their governance agenda. Why, then, don’t we see this “will of the people” reflected in the Nation’s laws, policies and programs?

That brings us back to the tribalism that marks today’s politics in the U.S. As of this writing (late September 2022, about five weeks before the mid-term Congressional and state elections), the Democratic Party (the “Left”) controls the White House and Congress (with a slim, one-vote majority in the Senate). The GOP, when it held control under the past Administration, used its power to shift the balance of the Supreme Court to a conservative majority (as well as pack other Federal judicial posts with conservative incumbents); and need only sway a handful of votes to effectively control the Senate on individual issues.

The Republicans have openly stated that their goal is to thwart virtually all Democratic-proposed legislation – and they’ve effectively done so, time and again, using their control of the Senate to block legislation and funding. We see that mirrored in the House, where Democratic-sponsored legislation passes over the “no” votes of the entire Republican Membership (and then may be effectively blocked in the Senate).

And so, even though the majority of Americans want progressive change, they don’t get it – because it’s blocked by Republicans representing the minority of our citizens.

What’s to be done? How can we deliver the change that the majority of Americans clearly want?

One of the clear lessons of the 2016 Presidential election is that the only poll that matters, is the one held on Election Day. In that case, although the majority of surveys predicted a win for the Democratic Candidate, the Republican won (this was due, in part, to the functioning of the Electoral College system, but that’s another discussion). The 2020 cycle showed that Democratic wins are still possible — but, particularly in the case of Congressional races, are a function, not necessarily what the “people” want, but rather of how many of which party shows up in the States to actually vote.

So, the answer is simple, but by no means easy: Democratic/Left/liberal voters need to turn out and vote, in numbers greater than Republican/Right/conservatives. It’s the bedrock concept of our representative democracy – and has proved enormously challenging, and will surely be so in the upcoming 2022 mid-terms.

That’s how I approached my song, which became “Pop Vox! (The Vote Song).” Addressed to Democrats/progressives/liberals, it asks a series of questions, all revolving around progressive change and how to achieve it. Do you want equal rights? Vote. Do you want choice? Vote. An interlude lays out the above referenced surveys (one of the few instances I’m aware of, of statistics forming a major part of a song’s lyrics); and then reinforces that’s our votes that will secure the change the majority of Americans want to see.

“Pop Vox!” was released on September 26, and is available for streaming at MikeTurner.hearnow.com. I’ve been distributing the track to various political groups, organizations, public figures and candidates, making it available for use in campaigning and recruiting drives.

The bottom line? The majority of Americans support the change needed to realize the true potential of the American Dream. But in order to achieve that change, we need to replace obstructionist officials with Representatives of the will of the people.

And to do that, we all have to turn out on Election Day, and vote.

Mike Turner is a retired member of the U.S. Government’s Senior Executive Service. He served a 27-year career as a law enforcement professional in the Departments of Defense, Treasury, Homeland Security and Commerce. In retirement, Turner has had a second career as an award-winning songwriter and poet. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Dissident Voice. He can be contacted at www.MikeTurnerSongwriter.com. Read other articles by Mike.