The 2016 election is, like all elections, an important one. Everything we’ve worked for in the last eight years is at stake and all the progress we’ve made could be reversed if we don’t elect the right candidates. From the presidential election to the city council seat, the decisions elected officials make every day affect the lives of working men and women trying to provide for their families. The next president we elect could very likely pick the next four Supreme Court justices and change the balance of power on the Supreme Court for the next 20 years.
To put this in perspective, imagine if a Democratic president had been able to appoint more justices to the Supreme Court. It is very likely the decision in the Citizens United case would have ruled against allowing big money in politics. Billionaires and corporations were given the authority to steer the political direction of our country and undermine democracy. We’ve seen the influence of corporate interest in politics and the role its money plays in our democracy. Now, we have people like the Koch Brothers who make unlimited donations to politicians who will support their agenda. This creates a cycle where wealth turns into political power, which then generates more wealth and then even more power.
So far, in this election cycle, almost half the money donated into federal super PACs came from just 107 people or groups that each gave $1 million or more to influence the outcome of this year’s presidential and congressional races. We can’t let a few wealthy people decide who the next president is so they can further degrade the union movement and push people further into poverty. It’s not just our bargaining rights that are at stake in the 2016 election. Our jobs, our families and our communities are at stake.
If Republicans had been able to choose more justices then it is possible that the Affordable Care Act would have been overturned. This would have affected millions of people who, for the first time, were able to have access to health care. However, with wealth being translated into political power favoring those at the top, the result is an economy rigged in favor of those at the top. Many Americans still pay more for prescription drugs and health care in general than the citizens of any other advanced nation. And yet still, conservatives and their special interest groups call the Supreme Court decision upholding the ACA “disappointing” because sadly, these folks think health care is a privilege and not a right.
A Supreme Court ruling in 2013 blocked the Voting Rights Act enforcement section which gave states the green light to pass new voting restrictions which discriminate against not only minorities, but the poor and young people. How many more voting rights would be taken away with a conservative court in the next 20 years? Can our country afford to have this happen in a democracy being steered by the top 1 percent?
It’s important to hear where the candidates have been but it is even more important to hear where they are going. Arguing about who is more socialist or who was doing the most in progressive politics 40 years ago is distracting. Arguing about a label is irrelevant to the issues that real working people are faced with every day.
For decades, hot button social issues have been used to divide voters. These hot button issues, known as wedge issues, create bitter debate and have marred our democracy almost as much as dark money has in recent years. Abortion, gun control and marriage equality are classic wedge issues that cause divisions. Immigration, race and religion, on the other hand, are wedge issues that play on fear. Candidates bring up wedge issues to attack their opponents and discredit them all the while distracting voters from the real issues that affect them,
such as wages and the lack of good jobs.
Meanwhile, as some candidates draw attention to controversial wedge issues like Chicken Little who claims the sky is falling, economic inequality broadens and people are working harder to make the billionaires wealthier. The middle class and working people need real relief from economic pressures they’ve been burdened with since before the Great Recession.
What matters most to people (wedge issues and fear or economic equality) could determine the outcome of the 2016 election.
Working people are having a hard time getting ahead and the economic inequalities of our time are found across party lines. We have to get over our fears and stop listening to people who want to distract us from the real issues. People are going to disagree about guns and abortion rights and that’s what a democracy is about. But on economic issues and worker rights, we have to start focusing on what’s important to working people and their families and not guns and who’s going to repeal the health care law. People are living in poverty and working two or three jobs just to make ends meet because the wrong politicians were elected. Who we elect matters and we have to vote for people who will give workers a better future and who won’t be influenced by billionaires.
It’s time to stop listening to candidates and pundits who use wedge issues to stoke our fears and divide us. We have to agree to disagree on those subjects and stop voting against our own interests. While people argue about guns, abortion, immigration and religion, the income inequality problem continues and the middle class shrinks. We have to support candidates who will focus on economic issues that will benefit workers, not the billionaires. So the questions to ask ourselves in the upcoming election are: Who will support policies that will improve the lives of working people? Who will support a worker’s right to form a union? Who will make it easier for workers to collectively bargain with their employer? Who will address the wealth disparity in the country? It’s time to mobilize in 2016 and elect the right people to govern our country and communities.
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