Yes, I know you're angry about the state of our country. You're worried about your future, worried about your employment status, worried about our national debt. And you should be. But before this anger and angst causes you to blindly vote for any new political face or--worse yet--sit out the election completely, you need to understand why it is very important for you to vote--and vote Democrat.
1. You don't want a future of economic crashes and bubbles. If you don't like the mess we're in now, then we need to elect leaders who are willing to crack down on Wall Street--something Republicans have a lousy track record with. Over the last 30 years, Republicans (along with moderate Democrats) have eliminated key regulations that were put in place after the Great Depression in order to--you'll never guess--prevent a second Great Depression. While both parties share the blame, the Republicans have been the ones leading the deregulation charge, and they continue to be the party pushing for more relaxed rules. This year, Democrats passed the most sweeping regulatory reform in half a century to try and restore sanity to our financial system. Today, many Republicans are hoping to repeal this legislation--and the important consumer protections that go with it. Don't let them.
2. You want health insurance. You're in luck. The health care bill passed by the Democrats is going to make it easier and cheaper for you to get insurance if you happen to be self-employed, working part-time, or working for an employer who does not provide coverage. If you are a young person, you can now stay on your parents' plan until you are 26 years old. If you have a preexisting condition, insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage. These are big important changes. The health care plan is not perfect, but as problems crop up, we can address them by adjusting the current legislation. Give control of Congress back to the Republicans, and they've promised to try and repeal the whole plan, putting us back to square one. Which brings me to ...
3. We cannot afford 2+ years of gridlock in Congress. At a different time in our history, there might be nothing wrong with a few years where very little gets done, but not today--not when we are in the midst of multiple crises. And make no mistake: this current crop of Republican candidates is practically campaigning on the promise of gridlock. You'll notice that none of them are talking about reaching across the aisle or finding common ground. Instead, they promise to be unyielding and to use valuable time revisiting and repealing legislation we spent the last two years passing. Mitch McConnell recently said that his key goal in retaking the Senate was to win back the presidency in 2012. Not to create jobs. To win back the presidency. Does this sound like a future senate majority leader who is ready to compromise for the good of his country?
4. You want American education to get better. If you have kids or are planning on having them, then a strong public school system should be important to you. If that's the case, don't vote Republican. Even though our schools are falling behind, the Republican's "Pledge to America" promises to cut our education funding by one-fifth. Republicans will tell you that education reform is not all about money, that there are problems with bureaucracy, and this is true. But guess what? Much of the problem IS money. How can we attract the best and brightest teachers if we aren't willing to pay them competitive salaries? How can we avoid students falling through the cracks when we have 30 kids in a kindergarten classroom and not enough books for the high schoolers? These are money issues. You can talk all you want about private schools and vouchers, but most of our kids are going to go to public schools--and we need money to make them better. Incidentally, money invested in education is money we get back in the form of lower crime rates, increased tax revenue, and a more skilled workforce.
5. You want the Internet to remain a free and level playing field. Democrats have been trying to pass legislation to guarantee net neutrality so that broadband providers will not be able to discriminate between "preferred" websites and those run by Average Joes. Republicans have thus far blocked such legislation. If they get control of Congress, then net neutrality, and the web as we know it, may be gone for good.
6. You want leaders who aren't afraid to pass unpopular legislation when necessary. The Tea Partiers may hate to admit it, but most of this ugly bailout and stimulus stuff passed by Bush and Obama actually worked. TARP achieved its goal of stabilizing the banks and is almost completely paid back. The American auto industry has been saved, and, along with it, countless jobs. As for the stimulus, serious economists of both parties agree that without it, we would have lost twice as many jobs. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says employment increased by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million people, compared with if there had been no stimulus. Today, the same Republicans who bad mouth the stimulus on the campaign trail are quietly applying to receive money from the stimulus budget to fund projects they know will create jobs. These emergency measures weren't pretty and they weren't perfect, but they have helped.
7. You hate the deficit. In order to climb out of debt, the U.S. government needs to take in more money and spend less. Republicans, unfortunately, seem to think they can solve the entire problem through spending cuts alone. They are deliberately vague on the details because the numbers don't remotely add up--and because they know their cuts are going to be most painful to middle and lower class Americans and seniors. Some Republicans are even talking about cutting Social Security, which would be an immense disaster (click here to read the truth about Social Security). Democrats know that any cuts need to be sensible, so that they don't hurt the people who most need help. They also must be balanced both by strategic investment and by the biggest no brainer of the election: allowing President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire. Don't fall for the bogus Republican scare tactic about this "hurting small business"; less than 2% of small business owners are in this top bracket, and they'll do just fine under the generous Clinton-era rates. Republicans talk tough on the deficit, but their strategies for dealing with it are too limited and too reckless. It is no wonder that the only president in the last 30 years to turn deficit into surplus was a Democrat.
8. You care about the earth. You are worried about having clean drinking water and breathable air in thirty years. That's why you need to vote for the party that consistently pushes for innovation and green technology--not the party that consistently opposes such investments.
9. You don't want a future in which elections can be purchased by the highest bidder. Ever since the conservative Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, wealthy powerful people from the U.S. and abroad have been free to pour unlimited--yes, unlimited!--amounts of money into our political campaigns. New corporations have sprung up to accept this outside money, corporations that are not required to disclose the names of their donors. While it is unclear the extent to which these new companies will influence the 2010 election, the potential for future abuse is obvious and scary. For the first time, candidates can receive an unlimited donation from someone whose identity will never be known. This is a shocking step backward that can only be reversed by new legislation. Republicans have no desire to change the status quo, so if you value transparency in government, you need to vote Democrat.
And now for the one you've all been waiting for...
10. YOU WANT A JOB. Let's be honest. No politician can promise to make private companies hire again. Whenever we climb out of a recession, hiring new workers is always the last thing companies do, and we're simply not there yet. So what can our government do in the meantime? When companies refused to hire new workers after the 1929 crash, FDR hired them himself, putting unemployed Americans to work building bridges and highways. It was a success. Between 1933 and 1940, he cut unemployment nearly in half. Today, the Democrats are the party fighting to devote more funds to repairing roads, rails, and runways, and modernizing our energy grid. Republicans complain that this will increase our debt, but that's false in the long term. We can either deal with our infrastructure problems today or put them off until tomorrow. Doing the work today is cheaper because the recession has given us super low prices on building materials and labor, as well as record low interest rates. Plus, it puts Americans to work immediately, bringing more money into the economy. This is another no brainer. Now if you don't happen to work in an infrastructure related field, you might be wondering how this government investment will help you get a job. To answer that, I will give you one bonus reason to vote blue, one that addresses a fundamental philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats ...
11. You believe that wealth does not trickle down from above; it flows upward. If you give a rich man $10, it will not affect his financial plans in any way. But give that same $10 to a man with a low income, and he'll buy a sandwich. When those in the middle and those at the bottom have more money, they inject it back into the economy. This has been a core Democratic principal for years. Nowadays, when one criticizes Republicans for crafting policies that benefit the wealthy and powerful, that person is accused of playing class warfare. But let's call a spade a spade. Republicans insist on securing tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, but they refuse to extend unemployment benefits to help families put food on the table. How is THAT not class warfare? Today, the average CEO pays a lower marginal tax rate than the average nurse does. How is THAT not class warfare? Republicans argue that we need the rich to get richer so they can start creating jobs for the rest of us, but history has proven this trickle down strategy to be bogus. U.S. corporations are holding on to record amounts of cash right now, but they're still not hiring. So why cut the taxes of their CEOs? Use that same money to hire a teacher or a policeman. They will spend the money they earn, and we will all benefit.
This election is too important to sit out. If you voted for Barack Obama in 2008, high on the promise of hope and change, do not stay on the sidelines now. Real change takes time, and problems of this magnitude take more than two years to fix. The Democrats have certainly made their share of mistakes these past couple years, but they are slowly getting us back on track. We can't afford to go in reverse.
Please vote Democrat on November 2nd, and please tell your friends to do the same.
[ADDENDUM: Not every Democratic and Republican candidate fits neatly into the generalizations above, and it is important to learn about each specific candidate's platform. But you must remember that, at the end of the day, most Senators and Representatives are going to vote with their party leaders. If you decide to stay home on election day because you are not particularly excited about your specific Democratic candidate, then you are actively working against President Obama's agenda and actively empowering John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and the Republican movement. Even if you feel like you are choosing between the lesser of two evils, you need to make that choice! Apathy is not an option.]