“What difference does it make?”
“All politicians are alike?”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many others, died for a most precious human right, the right to vote. Now, the same racists who denied Black voters ballot rights in the 1960s are trying to keep voters from the polls in 2012.
In the old days, they called it a "poll tax." They rode at night and wore white sheets. Today, they wear expensive suits. But they still steal elections by cutting off early voting, by imposing photo ID requirements that poor voters can't afford. It's called "voter suppression."
It will take a fight to defeat these dirty tricks. Voter suppression tactics violate the letter and spirit of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Everything from sit-ins to mass rallies on state capitol steps are called for.
The biggest dirty trick of all is fooling voters into thinking there is no difference. The huge voter surge in 2008 elected President Barack Obama, the first African American president. In the face of non-stop opposition, he pushed through:
- Affordable Health Care Act extends coverage to 35 million uninsured people, outlaws denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and extends until age 26 coverage of children under their parents plans.
- Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for equal pay for women.
- Stabilized the economy with $789 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that saved or created 3 million jobs. Invested billions in clean energy jobs, saved the auto industry.
- Unemployment benefits for millions of workers despite Republican threats to shut down the government. Obama was forced to yield on Bush-era tax cuts for the rich that he wanted to terminate.
- Appointed two women to the U.S. Supreme Court, including the first Latina woman, who support the rights of working people.
- Established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and used a recess-appointment to name the director over Republican opposition.
- Created a new food safety agency to protect people from food-borne illness.
- Ended profit-grab by private banks on students loans, reestablishing Federal control on these loans and used the savings to extend loans to more students.
- Doubled the funding for Pell Grants to $32 billion, increasing size of the grant $819 to a maximum of $5,500.
- Ended the war in Iraq and moved toward ending the war in Afghanistan.
Many people wanted more. In 2010 they failed to turn out to vote. Tea Party Republicans won a sweep. President Obama — and all the rest of us — have been fighting a defensive battle ever since.
Yet Ohio voters learned a bitter lesson. Tea Party Governor John Kasich rammed SB-5, a union-busting bill through the Republican majority Ohio House. The Ohio labor movement and its allies collected 1.3 million petition signatures to put repeal of SB-5 on the ballot. Last November, the people went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly to repeal this union-busting law.
Similarly, the Wisconsin labor movement and its friends collected over one million signatures to recall Gov. Scott Walker, a union-buster bought and paid for by the billionaire Koch Brothers.
The banks and corporations are spending billions of dollars, anonymously, under the U.S. Supreme Court's outrageous "Citizens United" ruling. It grants corporations the right to flood the airwaves with corporate lies and misinformation. Their aim is to strip away or privatize Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, and other federal, state, and local programs that serve all of us. Thousands of classroom teachers and other public employees have been laid off because of misguided austerity policies that threaten the fragile economic recovery.
This is a fight by "We, the people!" against the secret minions of great wealth. The 99% of us are fighting back against the wealthy 1%. Barely over 50% of those eligible actually exercise their right to vote, the lowest rate of voter participation of any nation in the industrialized world. We fight a defensive battle with one hand tied behind our backs.
What if 100% of eligible voters exercised their right to vote? It would be possible to elect officials committed to rebuild the social and physical infrastructure, create millions of good, green jobs that will also reduce federal deficits. The wealthy would have to pay their fair share of taxes. It would generate new revenues to pay liveable Social Security benefits and provide "Medicare for all."
If you are not registered to vote, do it NOW!
If you are registered, VOTE!
Remember, your life may depend on it.