My grandson looks forward to the start of baseball season with great excitement and anticipation. I always look forward to football season the same way. Others look forward to the opening of basketball season with equal excitement. After all, the start of any season brings with it great potential. It is filled with endless possibilities and potential surprises. As much as we know about the teams, their strengths, their strategies, their players and their statistics, there is the potential for the unexpected. It is, after all, the unexpected occurrences that make the season so unpredictable. So it is with the opening of the 2014 election season. No matter what we think we know now about the players, there will surely be surprises. That is what makes the coming mid-term elections so exciting.
However, unlike sport, they are crucial and will impact on all of us far more than any game. No doubt, those of us who follow politics enjoy the spectacle of missteps and pratfalls by the opposition. But let’s be clear, the issues being dealt with and the decisions being made are not amusing and have the potential of restricting the freedoms and economic futures of millions. Let’s take a look at some of the issues that will be debated and how they will impact on the results of the upcoming election.
Abortion rights have been severely restricted during the past few years. Just during the past year, 2013, some 70 restrictions have been passed on abortions. These restrictions have been made possible because many state legislatures have been taken over by right-wing majorities as a result of the last election. While the federal laws allow for abortion, they have rarely been challenged on the limits of restrictions available on the state level. As a result, laws have been passed and implemented requiring sometimes physically invasive examinations, closing clinics, reducing the number of doctors and restricting timing. The net result is that those who can least afford it must expend the most to get an abortion. The party that claims that government is too big and too intrusive has passed the most intrusive and restrictive laws possible when it deals with a woman’s right to choose.
The Congress has yet to pass an extension of unemployment benefits for those who have exceeded the standard state benefit of 26 weeks. This is for those who have been unemployed for more than 6 months. Once again, the GOP has found itself unable to muster the compassion necessary to afford those who are out of work, for no fault of their own, the subsistence benefit to help them survive. In the words of a man with great understanding and empathy, Senator Rand Paul, providing this benefit to the unemployed is a disservice in that it simply encourages them to stop seeking employment. While they persist on this track, they also block any attempt that the Obama Administration has made to create jobs programs. All of this while they bitterly complain about the lack of progress in lowering the unemployment numbers. Is it possible that there are none in any of the red states, or the Congressional Districts of those who oppose the extension of unemployment benefits that are among the long-term unemployed? Who do these Congressmen represent anyway?
One of the basic rights that defines America as a democracy is the right to vote. It has been viewed the world over as the privilege that sets us apart from the rest. We all are aware that both blood and treasure have been shed over this issue. During the “Jim Crow” days of the 20th century, it took federal law and the federal courts to enforce this right. It seems that some are still fighting this battle. During the past several years, voter restrictions have been passed in 36 states. It is not shocking that all of these states have a GOP-controlled legislature and a Republican Governor. It is clear that the changing demographic picture presents a challenging existential threat to the GOP. How better to ward off this threat than to artificially skew the election results by creating voting barriers for those who will most likely vote against you? There is nothing subtle here. Isn’t it amazing that those who are quickest to send our men and women into combat to support democracy in far off lands are the same folks who are quickest to corrupt democracy at home?
Depending on who you listen to, there are either 11 million or 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. These are people who have had to live their lives in the shadows for fear of being identified, arrested and deported. Yet, they are a real part of our economy and our culture. While there are certainly those who should be arrested and deported, the vast majority came here to provide a better life for their children. In so doing they took major risks, both physical and emotional, yet the goal always drove them forward. We are a nation of immigrants, and richer for that fact. Yet the immigrant today has taken on a sinister and unscrupulous persona according to the right. The House has refused to consider the Immigration Bill passed by the Senate several months ago. States are acting on their own. If that state is controlled by the GOP, the laws are restrictive and discriminatory as we saw in Arizona. How is it that the GOP feels it can lecture the rest of the world about how to deal with its immigrants, yet feels it is OK to shamelessly discriminate against and oppress our own?
There are so many issues that confront us during this election season. I haven’t touched on income inequality or the attitudes towards women. I haven’t touched on gun control or deficit cutting that always ends up impacting disproportionately on the poor. The 2014 election season is about to start. While those among us who follow it as sport will no doubt find much to enjoy, the potential consequences are much more serious. While it is tempting to view this as a spectator sport, in fact, this time you really must participate. There is too much at stake for us to just sit on our couch. The couch will be there as the returns come in on election night. In the meantime, we must all get involved.