Voting in Our Interests
In November, elections will be held in the US to fill the seats of all US House of Representatives Districts, about 1/3 of the US Senate and numerous legislators, governors and other elected posts at both state and local levels. The President is not being voted on, which historically has meant a significantly lower voter participation rate than occurs for Presidential contests. This lower voter turnout often results in elections which are won by candidates who do not share the political, social and economic interests of most of the people they are supposed to represent while in office.
Off-year elections like the ones held in 2010, while not electing a Commander-in-Chief, often have ramifications which last far longer than the 2, 4 or 6 year term the winners are elected to fill. Since 2010 was a census year, ,legislatures in many states were enabled to redraw districts within them to make electing members of their party easier in future elections. Such gerrymandering has made it enormously difficult for the Democrats to retake a majority in the US House, despite the fact that Democrat candidates obtained many more votes nationwide than Republican candidates did in the 2012 elections. The same is likely to happen this year – with the added danger that Republicans can conceivably recapture a majority of seats in the Senate. This is largely due to the fact that most seats up for election are currently held by Democrats, some of whom were elected to seats in traditionally Republican voting red states.
Time and time again, polls show that Republican positions on issues dealing with the economy, social issues, education, healthcare and foreign policy place them lower than Democrat positions on the same issues. Republicans are not reputed to be the party of the wealthy without good reason. They consistently on both the state and national level tend to side with the interests of the wealthy and large corporations over the interests of the less well off, workers, sick, poor and elderly, as well as small business. Democrats are not perfect on this score. Many of them are beholden to corporate interests as well, The fact that the Congressional Progressive Caucus proposes a budget every year that even large numbers of Democrats vote down is proof of that. Democrats are far from being a true people’s party, but many among them are far more progressive than most Republicans would ever dare to be.
Since the Republicans took control of the House after the 2010 elections, Congress has done an excellent job of just one thing – getting nothing of consequence done at all unless backed into a corner and then doing it half-assed, begrudgingly and set to expire as soon as practicably possible. Mitch McConnell, current Senate Minority Leader, up for re-election in his state of Kentucky, has done a good job of outlining the agenda the GOP will pursue if it regains the Senate in the fall. It is very consistent with his stated goal following the 2008 elections – to make sure that President Obama’s vision for the American future is never enacted by Congress. He couldn’t make the man a one-term president, but he sure has done his part to obstruct as much as possible getting the work of people accomplished. By filibustering nominations of positions ranging from judges and ambassadors (we don’t even have an ambassador to Russia now) to members of regulatory commissions and boards, as well as most legislation of any import, McConnell has essentially made the Senate Democratic majority almost as powerless as the Democratic House minority. If he gets his majority, he promises to do even worse. Take his word for it.
When it comes to looking out for the interests of working people, neither the House nor the Senate has passed legislation raising the minimum wage to even the modest $10.10/Hour proposed by the President in his last State of the Union Address. Congress has been unable to pass immigrations reform,despite a burgeoning border refugee crisis or deal effectively with passing legislation dealing with job creation or anything else unless it reaches a crisis point. The House GOP became so obsessed with the Affordable Care Act (passed before they retook control) that they repeatedly voted to repeal it and even shut down the government for a period last October trying to defund it. Millions of people in this country are still without affordable health care because they live in states dominated by Republican elected officials who do not care if they get the treatment they need and deserve as a human right and refuse to expand Medicaid as encouraged by the law and funded federally. At every turn, when asked to fund or expand a program as needed due to existing circumstances, they demand that it be funded by reducing expenditures somewhere else, rather than raising revenues to meet the perceived need.
Republicans controlling state legislatures, governors’ offices and the US House, as well as the filibustering minority in the Senate continue to either enact laws to restrict the rights of their people to vote, receive health care or participate in other social programs such as those designed to alleviate poverty, hunger and affordable housing availability. This is done both actively and passively, by passing legislation or refusing to pass it. Subsidies for some people and/or companies and industries have become sacrosanct, while programs to assist the truly needy are forfeit. Austerity is used as a saw to cut programs benefitting the poor and needy because retaining those benefits or expanding them would require either taking away some benefits (tax breaks, lower tax rates for the wealthy, and corporate subsidies and tax evasion strategies for corporations, etc.) or raising taxes on those who can afford it.
Every once in awhile, the GOP narrative gets exposed in a way that they do not intend. Mitt Romney’s 47% comments during the 2012 presidential campaign played a significant role in his defeat. Paul Ryan’s consistent attempted budgetary attacks on social safety net programs like Medicare and Medicaid, as well as his more recent plan to “alleviate” poverty and his long-standing statements concerning makers and takers show him to likewise not be interested in governing in any way other than to maintain the status quo and increase the income and wealth inequality to benefits primarily those already at the top. Their brand of elitism tends to come to the fore when speaking to the would-be kingmakers they speak to in private fundraisers like the one McConnell was recorded speaking at recently.
Laws passed at state and local levels also reflect a blatant disregard for the rights and welfare of huge portions of the populace. The states refusing Medicaid expansion are perhaps the most obvious, but states where voting, women’s health care, public education or other programs that help to increase the ability of 99% of the people to either survive or that provide opportunities for advancement are under attack in the name of fiscal responsibility are also tend to reside primarily in so-called red states dominated by the GOP. Courts have helped to curtail some of the excesses, most notably of late in the area of marriage equality and LGBT rights, but even they are often dominated by handpicked GOP partisans. SCOTUS is not immune (Hobby Lobby or Citizens United anyone?).
Our political system will remain corrupt as long as virtually unlimited private funding of campaigns is allowed to go unchecked. Thank the Supreme Court for opening that can of worms, too. The one thing we still have going for us is that we outnumber the plutocrats. They have not yet made it impossible for enough of us to vote to throw them out if they continue not to listen. Despite the media’s obsession with covering each Presidential election for four years to the exclusion of just about everything else, we still need to make sure we participate in each election in between. Congress is now at an all-time low in popularity – a rating well-deserved based on performance. Re-electing the same folks to fill 90% of the same seats every election is unlikely to result in anything better. This year, it could even make things worse, if Boehner and McConnell get their way.
Say no to the people who seek only to further aggrandize those already at the top of the heap economically at the expense of all the rest. Elect those with true compassion for their fellow humans and our environment rather than those who shed crocodile tears and spouting platitudes while acting in a manner that does no good and much harm to the many. Vote to elect people at every level of our government who can and do honestly sympathize and empathize with more than just that segment of society that can most readily satisfy their desire for the power that their office gives them. Elect people who will act in the interest of the country by raising living standards for all by eliminating the barriers that have been placed before the vast majority of us by the system-created and system-maintaining inequality that has ravaged our society for generations and become ever worse in the past few decades.
I have direct influence in the election of no US Senators, one House representative, 2 state legislators and a governor this fall. Hopefully, I’ll vote for winners for a change. I didn’t vote for many in 2010. Hopefully, enough people in other states will see through the thin façade of the GOP campaign to turn back the clock on workers, civil and human rights and elect new state legislatures, Governors and a Congress better suited for the advancement of our society than the Scott Walkers, Tom Corbetts, Rick Scotts, Ted Cruzes, Chris Christies and myriad state and federal legislators currently holding those offices ever could or even want to be. We deserve better from Washington and our state capitals than we’ve been getting – and we need to demand it before it’s too late.
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