"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" - Wendell Phillips (1811-1884)
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)
The turnout for the 2008 election was fairly large by American standards (Americans are notoriously uncommitted when it comes to actually getting their fat asses up off the barca lounger and lumbering down to the polls). It was a fairly monumental race, with the first real chance for a black man to become president, and the country's economy teetering on the precipice of disaster. For most Americans, it wasn't black and white, but green or red. America chose, and we are heading out of the red, and back into the green.
That race was inspirational, as evidenced by the turnout. The reality, though, is that EVERY
year is an election year. The "off year" elections cover everything from local dogcatcher to state House reps and senators, to the occassional US House rep or senator. Unfortunately, people tend to be less motivated, and turnout is much lower. Even every 4 years, though, people are woefully underinformed when it comes to who is running for local office, and what they stand for.
As a nation, the voting public also greatly underestimates the importance and reach of local and state government. So much is focused on national issues, but it is the states that have the powers that most effect our daily lives. Despite the right-wing's squawking about "state's rights" that are being usurped by the federal government, most of the legislation that impacts us occurs on the state and local level.
States make laws that severely limit abortion (Mississippi has one - count it - one abortion clinic), ban or allow gay marriage, determine if a fetus is a "person", determine sales taxes, maintain the highways, determine how and when alcohol can be sold. Local governments further amend those rules, as well as maintain (or close) city parks, zone lands (and make deals with developers).
Unfortunately, the more local the election, the less coordinated, the less "professional" the campaign is, and the less investigation is done by the media to sort out truths in advertising and claims. That makes it even more encumbent on us all to do that work ourselves.
In 2010, a mere 2 years into President Obama's presidency, there was a large movement among those that claim
to be "progressives" that he (and the Democrats in general) were not "doing enough" or were compromising too much or were "selling us out". The cry went out: stay home on election day - teach them a lesson. Let the Republicans win and destroy the country. Maybe THEN they'll pay attention.
Brilliant strategy... The Republicans DID win. They not only won enough seats to take over the US House, they also won downstream in state and local elections. In Virginia, a poorly-attended election allowed the Senate to flip to Republican control, meaning that the Republicans controlled the House, the Governor's office, and the Senate.
So what happens when the Republicans get emboldened, and control the legislative pen? Rights we've taken for granted are now on that same precipice on which our economy stood nearly 4 years ago:
- Women in Virginia will be forced to endure Transvaginal ultrasounds before getting an abortion (Link)
- Virginia and Oklahoma are considering personhood bills, giving a fertilized egg the same status as a living/breathing person (Note: The same concept was too extreme for Mississippi last year, and it was voted down by referendum)
- A New Hamphshire state legislator is on record quoting a hypothesis as if it were fact regarding an unsubstantiated link between the Pill and prostate cancer (Link)
- US House Rep Darrell Issa (R-CA) held a hearing about birth control (all men), and deigned to allow any women to speak (Link)
- A committee in the US House passes a bill prohibiting abortions that are motivated by the fetus's race or sex (Link)
- The majority contributor to Rick Santorum's campaign implies that women who use the pill are sluts (Link)
It's gotten so bad so quickly, that everyone is wondering whether the GOP wants to go back to the 50s
or just get rid of women's rights altogether. We thought all of the abortion/rape bills that came out of the House last year were just posturing, but it's getting serious.
Fortunately, these bills won't make it past the Senate or the president's desk. Even so - the national party is setting the tone, and it's the state and local operatives that are getting it done. The GOP was having trouble selling their regressive social agenda as morality and a response to perceived socialism, but the whole Catholic/Religious freedom angle seems to have breathed new fire into their bellies. Suddenly this isn't about imposing their narrow religion-based laws on us... No - they're fighting for our religious freedom - freedom from paying for someone else's contraception, freedom of the fetus to become a Christian, freedom for a woman to become a second-class citizen breeding chattel again. It's Christian Sharia Law they are proposing.
of them do. It is SO
important that we pay attention and VOTE
EVERY time we can. It is our strongest voice.