Why Voting Matters More Than Ever
Voting is defined as the ability to express one's preference for a candidate or for a proposed resolution of an issue. While the framing of the issues aren't voted on, a candidate for U.S. President is and will be leading our armed forces as well as the direction of our foreign and domestic policy. In less than 90 days, millions of Americans will cast their votes to re-elect either President Barack Obama to a second term, or to shift the socioeconomic trajectory further right with a Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan version of governance. The opposing vision of the two candidates has made this year's election extremely polarized and important as far as the identity and future of our so-called union is concerned. I realize the structural flaws within our once revolutionary democratic process; however, it is clear that elections have consequences and even with the ridiculous decision of the Supreme Court to overturn 100 years of law to rule in favor of "Citizens United", which allows corporations to flood our election process with undisclosed money amongst other things, the fact remains that each person is allowed one vote, whether rich or poor.
Legendary soul singer, Sam Cooke sang, "A change 'gon come" and it did. In 2008 we elected the first Black President in our nation's history. While Barack Obama has tried to create a more equitable America for all people, he has been hampered by a Republican Congress that refuses to legislate anything that could possibly assist him in his campaign to be re-elected. The Huffington Post reported that in the 110th Congress of 2007-2008, with Republicans in the minority, there were a record 112 cloture votes. In the current session of Congress – the 111th – for all of 2009 and the first two months of 2010 the number already exceeds 40. The most the filibuster has been used when Democrats were in the minority was 58 times in the 106th Congress of 1999-2000.
A filibuster can be understood as the use of irregular or obstructive tactics by a member of a legislative assembly to prevent the adoption of a measure generally favored or to force a decision against the will of the majority. I'm explaining this fact because it's important to understand the history of congressional intransigence as well as voter suppression.
The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a watershed event in U.S. history. For the first time the federal government undertook voting reforms that had traditionally been left to the states. The act prohibits the states and their political subdivisions from imposing voting qualifications or prerequisites to voting, or standards, practices, or procedures that deny or curtail the right of a U.S. citizen to vote because of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. The act was extended in 1970 and again in 1982, when its provisions were renewed for an additional 25 years.
The 80th Congress was nicknamed the "Do Nothing Congress" by President Harry Truman. The Congress opposed many of the bills passed during the Franklin Roosevelt administration. They also opposed most of Truman's Fair Deal bills. Yet they passed many pro-business bills. During the 1948 election Truman campaigned as much against the "Do Nothing Congress" as against his formal opponent, Thomas Dewey.
The combination of racial bigotry, economic inequality and corporate governance has made America a contradiction of its stated ideals throughout history. America is a "melting pot" of race, religion and culture and some of the people are fearful about which (race, religion or culture) will become synonymous with our national identity, possibly conflicting with their personal identities. The gift and curse of the industrial revolution, as well as the policies that arose from FDR's administration after WWII and our ability to innovate and develop technology, has made us overly competitive and economically dominant in the world of business and trade, yet we still live in one of, if not the most, unequal societies in the history of the world.
Approximately one third of annual deaths in the United States, epidemiological researchers believe, can be credited to the nation’s excessive inequality. (Source: Naoki Kondo et al., “Income Inequality, Mortality, and Self-rated Health: Meta-analysis of Multi-level Studies,” British Medical Journal, 2009.) It's not just this country, corporate values have seemingly poisoned the political wells of nations all over the world. Estimates from the Credit Suisse Research Institute, released in October 2010, show that the richest 0.5 percent of global adults hold well over a third of the world’s wealth. These statistics illustrate the kind of strategies implemented by the powerful neo-conservatives and the economically well-connected over the last 30 or so years, mostly since the Nixon abomination.
After a completely corrupt president Nixon, America elected the more genuine, humanitarian peanut-farming Jimmy Carter. Carter worked hard to combat the continuing economic woes of inflation and unemployment. By the end of his administration, he could claim an increase of nearly eight million jobs and a decrease in the budget deficit, measured in percentage of the gross national product. Unfortunately, inflation and interest rates were at near record highs, and efforts to reduce them caused a short recession.
Carter could point to a number of achievements in domestic affairs. He dealt with the energy shortage by establishing a national energy policy and by decontrolling domestic petroleum prices to stimulate production. He prompted Government efficiency through civil service reform and proceeded with deregulation of the trucking and airline industries. He sought to improve the environment. His expansion of the national park system included protection of 103 million acres of Alaskan lands. To increase human and social services, he created the Department of Education, bolstered the Social Security system, and appointed record numbers of women, blacks, and Hispanics to government jobs.
This common-sense, rural brand of Christian progressivism was too much for the conservative Christian right to handle and so they got a Republican nominee to "sell" the people on corporate values and American exceptionalism. The religious right resorted to mottoes like, "Greed Is Good" in order to tap into the fragile ego of America and fundamentally change the way we view ourselves in the world. President Reagan was telling Republican voters the Democrats were deluded devotees of big government, excessive spending and high taxes. “The failed policies of higher taxes, bigger government, soaring inflation and runaway spending haven’t disappeared,” Reagan said. “In fact they’re lurking not far away..." In 2012, all of this rhetoric sounds all to familiar to me.
Willard Mitt Romney is an "unemployed" investor and retired CEO of Bain Capital who has said, "Corporations are people," "I like firing people that provide services to me," and "I'm not concerned about the very poor in this country." With quotes like that, who needs a foreign policy or a domestic plan to create more employment, or an energy plan for that matter? That's where vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan comes in.
Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin has outlined a draconian austerity plan that slashes funding for social programs like food assistance for the poor as well as Medicare for the elderly, basic necessary infrastructure upgrades and even public education, all while increasing benefits for the richest 1-5 percent and reducing their responsibilities as tax-paying citizens from an already historically low figure to an even lower percentage. His plan is to increase taxes on 98 percent of Americans aka "the working poor" and the middle class in order to allow greater tax incentives for the top two percent or the "exploitative rich"; not to mention his offensive views on women's health rights and workers unions.
The Los Angeles Times reported on the philosophy of the GOP:
"Romney-Ryan Republicans pray to Jesus but bow to Ayn Rand"
In 2008, a record 54 percent of the population got out and voted to make Barack Obama the president of The United States of America. He campaigned on "Change" and "Hope" only to realize what he is up against. While Obama captured 66 percent of the youth vote, compared with McCain's 31 percent, voters age 30 and older divided roughly evenly between the two candidates. Among those ages 18-29, Obama took a majority among whites (54%-44%), and captured more than three-fourths of young Hispanic voters (76%-19%). However, among both younger and older voters, there was no difference in the vote of those with college experience and those without. As with older voters, a gender gap appears in young voters' support for the Democratic ticket: 69 percent of younger women voted Democratic, compared with 62 percent of comparably aged men.
While the information based on last election and current voter trends show good signs for re-election, the "Do Nothing" Republicans in the House and the "Filibusters" in the Senate have brought progress to a screeching halt in Washington, unless you count all of the anti-American, voter suppression efforts we've seen over the last year or so.
Republicans were for reforms like early voting until Democrats started using them. “It just so happened that  was the first time that early voting had been used in large numbers to mobilize African American and Latino voters," Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the Huffington Post. A federal court ruled on Thursday that early voting cutbacks in Florida—-where blacks outnumbered whites by two to one among early voters in 2008—-violated the Voting Rights Act. As Doug Preisse admitted on Sunday, Republicans are doing everything in their power to make sure 2012 isn’t a repeat of 2008.
Research by political scientists at Dartmouth College and the University of Florida concluded that "Democratic, African American, Hispanic, younger, and first-time voters were disproportionately likely to vote early in 2008 and in particular on weekends, including the final Sunday of early voting."
"We should be increasing access to vote, not taking it away," said Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat. "You got a lot of working people, working-class folks, some people have to piece together three to four jobs, why wouldn't we have extended hours and extended days?"
The question ultimately answers itself. "For me, this is Jim Crow in the 21st century," Turner said. "Jim Crow has been resurrected. This is by design. It's not by accident."
While it is actually Congress that is responsible for legislating policies that could lead to "hopeful change", or "draconian austerity" for that matter, it is extremely important to have a President and representative that can identify with and advocate for the majority of the people which are the middle-class and the poor in America. It is equally as important to have a President that will veto bills and proposals that are written by corporate pirates looking to loot the opportunities of future generations. Obama isn't anyone's savior, (except for Wall St.) because he too is compromised by the monetary system to a large degree. However, voting still matters. Would the GOP be scrambling to stop YOU from voting if it didn't matter?
This is an election of values: should we be a country that cuts food stamps and doubles child poverty rates from 23 percent to 46percent? Should we just say, "Fuck It" and not vote at all so that the odds are stacked even higher against our social aims and economic goals of bringing about more equality? Should we just tune out of the circus of corruption known as American politics? I have to admit that I've been there myself, but that's exactly where your oppressors want you, divided, apathetic and voiceless.
If the Republicans win this November, our problems as a nation will increase exponentially and more and more austerity measures will be employed to try to keep the masses in line and 'in chains' while the 'elite' few live in more luxury, and with more wealth than the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. This election is between what is just and what is obviously unjust. The only chance a citizen has to express his/her democratic voice in our country is through voting. Previous generations fought and died, quite literally actually, so that our generation would have the rights we choose or do not choose to uphold. I don't believe that the 2012 Presidential Election is going to save the world or anything but it will have a dramatic effect on the possibility of reaching a more sustainable plan for a more rational and humane culture. It's come down to Obama or Romney and this may be the most important election any of us ever take part in. Please vote, and more importantly, continue to spread awareness of the Zeitgeist Movement and the economic model we all know as a "Global Resource Based Economy."
To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY, SPREAD AWARENESS, SEEK SOLUTIONS AND VOTE LOUDLY...