After the election is not the time….
by Caleb Pritt
Tuesday in Chicago, a good man, Gery Chico conceded his bid for Mayor of Chicago to Rahm Emanuel. I applaud Mr. Emanuel on his victory, but as far as policy goes….Gery Chico had the right vision, plan, and experience to really turn Chicago around and make it a first class city again. The loss of the Summer Olympic Games, the rising unemployment and crime rate in Chicago only go to show you that Chicago is not the mighty metropolis it once was….but it can be. I give credit to Ed Koch and later Mike Bloomberg for the way they have turned New York City around, when they were Mayor. But in Chicago, today, a little over 50% of the eligible voters have voted.
In Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio, reactionary Republican Governors and their legislative leadership have sought to break….literally bury the organized union effort. There are protests in their second week in Madison, Wisconsin while the Democratic Party members of the State Legislature in those three states have fled across state lines to prevent quorum. In those states, in Wisconsin 51.7%, in Indiana 37.8%, and in Ohio 44.3% of the eligible voters voted in key elections across those states’ elections. Potential Governors (Tom Barrett in Wisconsin, Jill Long Thompson in Indiana, and Ted Strickland) who all had pro-union records were left on the sidelines.
At home here in Alaska, there is growing frustration with the way Sean Parnell as Governor has refused Federal money for the Health Care Consortium and the fact that he favors giving more business tax breaks, while thousands of Alaskans struggle with mounting energy prices because there is still no movement on building the Natural Gas pipeline. There’s also considerable frustration with some of the other policies of Governor Parnell. Mind you, Democrats Ethan Berkowitz (the eventual Democratic nominee for Governor), as well as Hollis French & Bob Poe had wonderful policy plans for energy, the economy, and many Alaska issue. 43.2% of eligible Alaska voters cast ballots in the 2010 General Election. Alaska could have had a forward thinking Governor who would prepare Alaska for the next phase of it’s statehood. There are many problems facing my state I chose as home and cutting budgets, pampering the big businesses, and sticking the proverbial head in the sand will not solve those problems. Alaska needs another Egan, Hickel, or Hammond as Governor. Instead they are getting a Governor whose focus is on supporting the business interests who supported his campaign, rather than the people who he was elected to govern. But as the late and great Molly Ivins said, “You dance with the ones who brung you.” And the big business interests “brung” Sean Parnell to the big dance as Governor!
On average 41.6% of the eligible voters in the United States bothered to turn out and vote.
As a political operative, I know that those who host a coffee party to meet a candidate, go to a campaign headquarters and do data entry, knock on doors passing out literature on a candidate, and actually take voters to the polls or take absentee ballots to those unable to go is a far less percentage.
My cousin, Charlotte Pritt, was the first woman ever nominated for Governor of West Virginia. She was a State Senator and former member of the House of Delegates. She entered politics because as a school teacher she saw too many children who came to school hungry and she asked prophetically, “What do you do when the kids are too hungry to want to learn?” Her campaign for Governor was more than a mere exercise in breaking barriers for women. She supported collective bargaining rights, opposed a grocery and gasoline tax, and was an advocate for responsible conservation that works with business while opposing mountain top removal in mining. 46.6% of eligible West Virginia voters turned out to vote in 1996. She faced a former Governor who was assisted by a conservative State Senator who supported a smear campaign against her. The UMW got a holiday declared but many miners took a personal day rather than voting for the daughter of a coal miner, thinking in Democratic West Virginia she had it won. She narrowly lost and that conservative State Senator went onto later become Governor himself and now a U.S. Senator. As a result West Virginia has seen mountain top removal rise and social programs for those less fortunate decrease. We have seen greedy politicians lusting for power attempt to usurp the authority of the State Constitution and the aforementioned State Senator who went on, stopped at nothing to crush my cousin and later her brother, who also ran for statewide office, as well as anyone who opposed him. As Governor, his daughter received an illegal degree, a great U.S. Congressman was assaulted and turned out for reelection on false charges of misconduct, and it took a near revolt in the State Legislature to stop the Huey Long-like power grab of this individual. And yes Big Business thrives and the people suffer.
Protests, energy, email campaigns are all well and good but they are misplaced energy AFTER THE ELECTION. After the election is not the time to get involved. After the ballots are counted and the election is certified is not the time to get involved. Facebook statuses, letters to the editor, the occasional protest, all that is wasted if you do not do the homework beforehand.
As a political operative, I am on the frontlines. Do you realize many of us who work on campaigns get paid very little, but work long hours. We have little of a social life because we devote our lives (if we are good and worth our salt) to the politician and their campaign. We sacrifice sleep, good nutrition, health, and wealth to make the clanky gears of democracy turn. We endure losses of relationships, non-understanding family and friends, and miss concerts, movies, and various other social events. We struggle to convince people to come in to assist us. We endure the insults of the uninformed and the mind numbing, soul-wrenching pomposity of the ignorant. We become literal slaves to make freedom work. We are the reason….the front line shock troops that are the first on the field of battle as it were, and when the election is over….very few remember us or the sacrifices we made.
And I have been a candidate and for them, the sacrifice is greater. You sacrifice not just your social relations and your family and absence of being with loved ones, but you sacrifice your privacy and your dignity. You find yourself cramped in a room calling contributor after contributor because you are forced to do so to find enough donations (fuel) to keep your campaign going. You add to that the need to do endless news interviews, travel time to various events, listen to person after person, study the issues, try not to slip up in what you say while having to cope. You have little sleep and you wake up in a panic mode asking, “Is it worth it?” or more frightfully, “How will I raise enough money? What if I lose?” And you think of not just your family & friends, but your extended family, your campaign staff, and worry about disappointing them. You do so many things in so little time and suffer a harsh press, encouraged sometimes by harsher bloggers, who take rumors and half-truths and build them to a crescendo game of “gotcha”, not to mention the contributors or supporters who feel scorned if you don’t give them enough attention. You don’t thrive often, but rather survive, and often the one with the best plans doesn’t win because society and elections has become more predicated on who raises enough money vs. who raises the most valid solutions to the problems facing government.
Often I hear politics and politicians are corrupt. Well government and politics are indicative of the people they govern. If we have an abusive relationship with our elected officials, it’s because we are allowing them to abuse us. We as citizens possess a power than men & women in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, all across Africa and Asia and all around the world give their lives for….the power to vote.
In Iraq, our men and women in uniform are sacrificing their body and blood to give people the right to vote. In Afghanistan it’s the same as well.
We in America have no excuse. We have had the right to vote since 1789 if you are a white man, 1865 (or 1963 depending on your definition of the right) if you are an African-American, 1921 if you are female. No matter your skin tone, your orientation, your religion, your beliefs….you have an inherent right and a power to speak and be a part of the process. By taking a quick moment we can with the power of a pen render the powers of mighty armies useless. We can control our budgetary demands if we vote. We can end and decide what we want truly, if we but vote. We don’t need Tea Parties or Coffee Parties.
Somewhere tonight there are people like Kevin & Daniel and other friends of mine who have drowned their sorrow in a beer or two. The next few weeks will be hard as they help to disassemble a once thriving campaign office, then pack up, try to decide what they will do for their lives, and then the silence. The silence and sense of loss that comes at the end of a campaign. The sense that while their cause was right and their aim was true, they fell short of the goal, and they will as I have often and other friends before me have beforehand ask, was it worth it?
After the election is not the time. Griping never solves problems and neither does misplaced energy. There’s one solution and that’s the register to vote and utilize in municipal (citywide), county, state, and national elections. Then and only then do we fulfill the right to call ourselves citizens. Otherwise to abdicate that right is really your way of saying I don’t want to be an American citizen.
Our nation and our state(s) are at a crossroads. We can choose a destiny that we choose or we can sit idly by and gripe and complain as our precious freedoms erode away. The choice is ours, each of us, and I pray to God it’s not too late!