The great political crisis in our country is the extent to which millions of Americans vote against their own economic interests. We can understand why CEOs and millionaires will vote for Bush and contribute to his campaign. But why would someone who makes $8 an hour, lacks adequate health insurance and is unable to send his or her kid to college vote for a president who so clearly represents the interests of the rich and the super-rich?
Why would, according to polls, a majority of white working-class citizens support someone who works against their best interests — taking away overtime pay, encouraging companies to move jobs abroad, working to privatize Social Security and Medicare, and cutting benefits for veterans? The future of this country depends upon whether that question is adequately answered and addressed.
At the root of this problem is a Democratic Party that has been, for at least 30 years, wishy-washy on economic issues facing working families. Having received large campaign contributions from the wealthy and the powerful, many Democrats have refused to stand up to the corporate interests waging vicious class warfare. While many Democrats have focused on such important issues as women’s and gay rights, the environment, civil liberties and war and peace, the needs of working families have not received adequate attention. The result is that a majority of lower-income Americans no longer votes, and of those who do, many don’t see a clear difference between the two major parties.
With Republicans having almost nothing of substance to say about economic or healthcare issues, they will attempt to make gay marriage, opposition to the war, flag burning, affirmative action, the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer in schools, abortion and guns the major issues of the campaign. If they are successful, and they will have a corporate media to help them, George Bush will be reelected.
Are you one of the 2.8 million people who lost a manufacturing job in the last three years? Are you angry and frustrated that you can’t find a job that pays a living wage? Fight back! Vote for someone who supports a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Are you one of the 43 million Americans with no health insurance who hesitates to go to the doctor when you get sick? Fight back! Vote for a candidate who wants to make it impossible for a woman to have an abortion.
Are you one of the 25 percent of seniors unable to afford the medicine your doctor prescribes because of outrageously priced prescription drugs? Fight back! Vote for someone who wants to eliminate the separation of church and state.
Republicans are working feverishly to divide men from women, straights from gays, whites from black, native born from immigrant, and urban inhabitants from those who live in rural America. President Bush ran for election in 2000 as a “uniter not a divider.” The truth is the Republican Party is doing everything it can to develop hot-button issues that will divide us as never before.
What is the antidote? John Kerry and every candidate running for office has to make it clear that he/she stands with the middle class and working families against corporate America and the big-moneyed interests selling us out.
Some of the issues that must come front and center:
We must revise our trade policies that have cost us millions of decent manufacturing jobs, and we must address the horrendous possibility that the outsourcing of good-paying information technology jobs will cost us millions more.
We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage so that no one who works 40 hours a week lives in poverty. We must change our unfair labor laws so workers who want to join unions are able to do so. We must put millions back to work rebuilding our deteriorating physical and human infrastructure — roads, bridges, mass transportation, schools, childcare facilities and community health centers. We can pay for this real economic stimulus by rescinding Bush’s tax cuts for the rich and the tens of billions we currently spend on corporate welfare.
We must join the rest of the industrialized world and provide a national healthcare program guaranteeing access to all. A single-payer approach can provide care to all that doesn’t cost more than we presently spend.
Standing strong on economic issues is not only good public policy; it is good politics. The middle class of this country is shrinking, poverty is increasing, and the gap between the rich and poor is widening. Americans want candidates prepared to fight for them against powerful special interests. If Kerry can make that case, he’s the next president. If not, welcome George Bush back for another disastrous four years.