By Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League
NEW YORK - “People often say that in a democracy decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote…” Walter H. Judd, former Minnesota Congressman
In three weeks, on November 2nd, the rallies, polls and pundits will be silenced and the American people will have the last word in what has developed as one of the most important and contentious mid-term elections in recent memory. The stakes are high. In the midst of persistent high unemployment and the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes, there are those who are demonizing the jobless and threatening to end their unemployment benefits. There is the threat of the repeal of historic health care reform. There are those determined to extend job-killing foreign tax credits and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while shifting more of the tax burden to the middle class. There are calls for the abolishment of the minimum wage, the Department of Education and a woman’s right to choose. Immigrants, Muslim-Americans and other minority communities are wondering if they will still be welcomed in the land of equal opportunity on November 3rd. And retired seniors, who learned last week that they won’t be getting a cost of living increase next year, would be put at further risk by those advocating for the privatization of Social Security.
A slight shift in the balance of power in both the House and the Senate could have a seismic impact on the well-being of millions of middle class and working class American families. And with 37 governorships up for grabs, issues that are being hotly debated at the state level, including school reform, immigration and health care spending will be affected. So if you thought about sitting this one out – don’t. Too much is at stake.
No matter what you have heard from the pundits and prognosticators, no election is ever decided until the people cast their votes. And if you are among the 16 percent of African Americans who are currently unemployed and discouraged, that is even more reason to make your voice heard. For you the choice is between building on the change we voted for in 2008, or allowing a return to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place. The percentage of Black voter turnout, which exceeded white turnout in 2008, will again be a deciding factor in this election.
Our nation is facing tremendous challenges both at home and abroad. The overwhelming issue is jobs, but this election is also about our nation’s moral direction and whether or not we will allow groups like the Tea Party movement to take us back to an era of overt racial, ethnic, religious and economic division.
The strength of our democracy has always been the fact that it is We the People who get to peacefully choose our leaders and shape our destiny by the power of the vote. As the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Alice Walker once said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.”
So today and every day until November 2nd, remember that the power for change is in your hands. Get out and vote.