June 18, 2014
By Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., Ed.D. Special Advisor to the International President
International Longshoremen's Association, AFL-CIO
This is an age of fractured jobs, a fractured economy, fractured families, a fractured political system, a terribly fractured American Dream and where the political protagonists,our elected leaders, are in need of spinal transplants.
The soon-to-retire greying generation is experiencing no pensions. Those pensions are promises that will not be kept, leaving thousands of employees in dire straits when they are most vulnerable. Roller-coaster retirement accounts subject to the whims of the market. Longer life spans and higher health care costs. Children in college. Young adults with staggering student-loan debt who are financially incapable of purchasing a home. Aging and ailing parents. A will to work but fewer jobs to be had.
America is dying for a champion who makes preserving the middle class a top priority. They want somebody who can level the playing field so that Main Street doesn't always come second to Wall Street. Someone who is not running networks of oligarchs who take advantage of our weakened campaign finance laws to manipulate the democratic process in pursuit of their self-interests.
This is the scenario as we head into the 2014 Congressional elections with predictions that Republicans will hold the House of Representatives and perhaps gain control of the Senate.
If that happens, forget a Congress that looks out for the little guy. In conjunction with a non-caring Congress, today, unfortunately, the concept of freedom has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for the rest of us. In reality, the 1 percent has undertaken a serious effort to buy elections.
At any kind of gathering whether it be at work or at home, Americans are expressing disappointment about the way things run in Washington. They don't see them dealing with the multitude of problems facing our nation. Their approval rating is at an all-time low. Many citizens say they see no value in bothering to vote.
Clearly, the constant bickering between the Republicans and Democrats is wearing thin on Main Street and leads to a notion of false equivalency. The Pew Research Center says that Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the last two decades.
The GOP has done all it can to undercut the Obama presidency. Democrats had to fight back. The line is drawn in the sand which has resulted in blind allegiance or blind hatred.
But let's put the blame where it belongs: on the Republican side of the aisle. The Republicans must end their internal civil war between the moderates and the Tea Party aficionados.
Recently, a number of the members of Congress who have announced their plans to retire have expressed their frustration with the cantankerous environment in Washington and their inability to get things done.
When even the pols start complaining, you know that things are really bad. If they can't find solutions then we are, truly, in deep trouble.
Despite this horrendous dilemma, failing to vote surely will make things worse. We have a solemn obligation to go to the polls. Neglecting the most fundamental responsibility of citizenship invites complacency and encourages political abuse. Showing up on Election Day proves we are in the game, that we care and that we want to see change.
There are areas of this country where people have been removed from the ranks of eligible voters and GOP operatives are doing all they can to suppress participation by traditional Democratic constituencies.
Today, the American workplace is plagued with wage theft, disrespect of culture, pressure, unsafe environments, unbridled automation and more. Everything solid is melting into air. This should not be tolerated in modern America. We must vote our pocketbook to protect our livelihoods and our well-being.
We must encourage our union memberships, thoughtful young folks and retirees to go out on Election Day and exercise their right to vote. They must be engaged in their communities and serve as an example to those who might stay away. Staying home is not an option. It will only continue and calcify this dangerous divisiveness.