Now that the Demopublicans have routed the Republicrats in elections nationwide, how will low-income communities be affected?

I can answer that question with another: What is the sound of one Diebold AccuVote TS Touch-Screen System™ failing to record a vote?

Exit pollsters did, however, report significant voter frustration with corruption in politics, and Nancy Pelosi, soon-to-be Speaker of the House, promised a shakedown in Congress.  “The Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history,” she said in an apparently unguarded moment.  It’s true that Republicans might have taken the rap, but Democrats, as we know, have not been models of self-denial. In January of this year, for example, the Washington Post reported that

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) [now the majority leader—eds.], like House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), signed a letter in 2002 to Interior Secretary Gail A. Norton on behalf of an Abramoff client around the time he received a large campaign contribution from Abramoff’s tribal clients. Edward P. Ayoob, a former Reid aide, was a member of Abramoff’s lobbying team …

Abramoff picked up part of the tab for two Democrats, Reps. James E. Clyburn (S.C.) and Bennie Thompson (Miss.), on a trip to the Northern Mariana Islands in the mid-1990s, officially sponsored by the nonprofit American Security Council. Clyburn, now chairman of the Democratic Caucus, was recently named to the House Democrats’ “clean team,” tasked with leading the ethics-reform push.

Business as usual for both sides of the aisle.  Remember that heartwarming show of zeal earlier this year for meaningful lobbying reform?  That effort was so toothless, so cynical, that some advocates suggested dubbing it the “Let’s Add Effrontery to Bribery Act of 2006.”  So nonprofit advocates beware.  If history is any guide, you’ll likely continue to be seriously outspent by well-moneyed interests, all cries for an “ethical Congress” to the contrary.

While the reformers do their work (or not), the nonprofit and foundation communities watch closely for new regulatory initiatives from the 110th Congress.  But do the elections hold a deeper meaning for the sector?

I was struck by the fact that many voters repudiated the Iraq War not because it was an immoral invasion based on trumped up charges, but because it was poorly executed and “weakened the United States.”  Perhaps we were too busy fumbling for the keys of our SUVs to mention to the exit-pollsters that we were appalled at having become one of a family of nations that commits torture.  Ballot measures in 11 states banned same-sex marriage, giving legal cover to our bigotry.  And in no election—none—did the issue of poverty play a significant role.

This is apparently what defines the “middle” in these nefarious times.


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Albert Ruesga blogs on philanthropy and nonprofits at White Courtesy Telephone.  Currently a foundation executive, he has worked in the nonprofit sector for close to 20 years.  He taught ethics and logic at Gettysburg College before entering the world of philanthropy.  An accomplished writer, his articles have appeared in Social Theory and Practice, The Journal of Popular Culture, and other publications.  He was for many years a contributing writer to The Boston Book Review.

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