Here’s a quote from a recent newspaper editorial: “The flood of private and corporate wealth used to influence our elections has transformed our politics. Big money gives big donors outsize influence and drowns out the voices of regular people in the halls of government.”

This opinion is not interesting because of its insight and originality. It’s interesting only because it duplicates the opinion of a multitude of editorials, columns, and letters to editors all over the country.

This makes it worth consideration. There’s no disputing money’s influence; what we need to analyze is the ways and means by which “regular people” make their voices heard in places where decisions are made.

We start by identifying the regulars (a.k.a., the “normals,” the “man in the street,” the “averages,”“the Great Unwashed,” “the Many-headed,” “the Masses,” “the rabble,” the “canaille,” etc., etc, whatever. The dizzying variety of names reveals the difficulty. It gets worse because of all the advocates, activists, partisans, political hacks, opinion-makers, and opinion-announcers who step up to confidently explain what the American People, or Mainers, or the voters, want, fear, love, dislike, or get tired of. Sometimes they can quote polls to justify their claims. More commonly they just announce what they believe to be true but can’t possibly prove.

My favorite reference to ordinary people are those voters who gather around the ‘kitchen table’ to discuss the issues. Readers must have heard this expression. Politicians and political hacks used it all the time. I haven’t made an effort to keep count but I’m feeling quite certain that I myself have heard it a couple hundred times in political speeches over the years.

The reason I favor this expression is because I’ve never witnessed, or even heard of, anybody discussing politics around any kitchen table anywhere. Anything is possible in a country containing over 330,000,000 people and maybe some day the Smithsonian Institution will display a model kitchen table around which American families have gathered to guzzle spaghetti and talk issues.

However we define the regular people we must think about the means they have for making their wishes audible in the halls of government. They can attend caucuses if their state authorizes them. It is assumed that the Iowa’s regular people will meet in caucuses in February 2020 to finish off some Democratic presidential candidates and boost some others.

This is not a constitutional or statutory mandate, but that’s the common assumption and that’s why every major polling outfit in the country takes regular soundings to determine how 171,517 Democrats are going to decide who gets to send 56 delegates to the national convention. I quote the number of voters from the 2016 turnout.

The 56 delegates will join 4,366 others on national nomination day. Nobody argues that this makes sense, but there’s a general agreement that this is the way it is, or at least this is the way it has been since Jimmy Carter emerged from relative obscurity to win the presidential nomination. Anyway it’s the earliest example we have of regular people making their voices heard.

We know that Sen. Kamala Harris has diverted all her resources to Iowa, hoping that the Iowa Regulars will revive her fading prospects. So money will still count, but only if the actual voters can be persuaded.
The 2020 New Hampshire Democratic primary will take place on Tuesday, February 11, 2020.

New Hampshire awards 33 delegates, of which 24 are pledged delegates allocated on the basis of the results of the primary. In 2016 Bernie Sanders, the Social Democrat, got 152,193 regular Democrat people, Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, got 95,355 Democrat regulars, Vermin Supreme 268.

Those 152,193 regular people made the Sanders a suddenly viable candidate. Had he gone the way of the lesser vermin he might have faded away. They made him a serious contender.

Ironically, the votes of these tiny Iowa and New Hampshire regular people fractions had a significant effect on the big money donors’ decisions about who to spend money on. These donors have their philosophical preferences as well as ‘special interests’ but either way they want to invest in a winner.

John Frary of Farmington is a former candidate for U.S. Congress, a retired history professor, an Emeritus Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United, a Maine Citizen’s Coalition Board member, and publisher of FraryHomeCompanion.com. He can be reached at [email protected]

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