CHICAGO-If African Americans, Latinos, first time voters and students defy predictions and vote in large numbers November 2, Democrats can prevent a Republican takeover of Congress. So said former President Bill Clinton at a jammed get-out-the-vote rally here Oct. 26.
With races across the country, including key U.S. Senate and governor’s races in Illinois as tossups, voter turnout is key and that appears to be happening across the board. Clinton said this is essential because pollsters insist that while Republicans will turn out, “the Hispanic (voter turnout) will go down 35 percent, the African-American total will go down 40 percent, and the youth vote will drop 55 percent.”
Clinton said the election offered a clear choice for voters: the path being pursued by Pres. Obama and the Democrats of green jobs creation, financial and health care reform or the one being advocated by the Republican Pledge to America – to go back to the failed Bush policies.
Many of the accomplishments of the Obama administration and Democratic Congress, passed in the face of total Republican obstruction, are not known widely to the American people and it is the job of grassroots activists to spread the word before Nov. 2 so the victories can be defended.
In particular, Clinton said Congress had passed the most significant student financial aid legislation in his lifetime. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act was passed as part of the health care reform last spring.
The legislation was the single largest investment in aid to help students and families pay for college in history. It ended the role of private lenders in the federal student loan program. As “middlemen,” private lenders had been ripping off $60 billion in profits from the program. $40 billion of these savings will go back into increasing Pell Grants.
The legislation also boosted aid to community colleges, historically black colleges and universities and schools with predominantly Latino student populations.
Not only did Republicans oppose the legislation in lockstep, but if they gain a majority, they vow to repeal it. “All you have to do is follow the money,” said Clinton.
Clinton blasted the tens of millions being put in the campaign by anonymous donors to fund non stop television ads and a Republican GOTV effort. In Illinois alone, $10 million has flooded the Senate race to aid Republican Mark Kirk.
The big private financial aid lenders are among the anonymous donors. “Their big donations are a down payment to get that $60 billion back,” he said.
“College students, not 20 percent of them know what’s in that student bill and not 20 percent of that 20 percent know Republicans have promised to repeal it,” Clinton said. “I want you to get on Facebook, get on YouTube, Twitter, do all that stuff you’re supposed to do, social networking. … If every young person who voted in 2008 knew about this student loan issue … every person on this stage would be elected a week from today.”
Clinton said the reform not only saves $60 billion. It provides students with a way to pay back their loans so they never have to pay more than 10% of their income. He said high tuition costs and student debts were forcing students out of college. The Republican proposals make no sense to future economic development.
In addition the Pledge to America seeks to cut financial aid to 8 million students and eliminate 200,000 children from early childhood education programs like Head Start.
Mobilization of youth and first time voters is ramping up. Not only has Pres. Obama made personal appeals to youth both in a mass rally at the University of Madison – Wisconsin, but also with a youth town all meeting broadcast simultaneously on MTV and BET. In addition American Rights at Work has teamed up with Respect My Vote 2010 to reach young voters. Respect is a coalition of groups including the Hip Hop Caucus and Rock the Vote.
On Oct. 26, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) used mobile billboards, new media, and face-to-face contact to get young voters in Chicago’s South Loop, home to thousands of university students, to pledge to cast a ballot this year.