Democracy is hard work, thank these folks in Texas!
Texas activists marched to support the workers of United Airlines. | Bernard Sampson

HOUSTON–This is a message of thanks, to Maria Baca, Steven Flores, Betty Ortega, Rita Lucido, Penny Morales Shaw, Bernard Sampson, Alvaro Rodriguez here in Houston and to tens of thousands of other people like them across the country. They make democracy work. It isn’t easy.

And more of us should be out there with them.

Lucido is an attorney and former teacher. She’s also a second-time candidate, a progressive Democrat running for the state senate in Houston’s District 17, against a GOP incumbent. She’s putting herself out there to be judged by her peers – the voters.

This time, she’s really motivated because “Trump got elected,” Lucido says, referring to the current GOP Oval Office occupant. “I thought ‘There’s no way he’d win’” after the release of the videotape where Donald Trump bragged about repeatedly and vulgarly groping women.

Then he did – and she realized she’d have to fight Trump and his allies, starting on the local level. So she’s running, against those, like Trump and her Republican foe, who would deny Medicaid dollars to people in need, and, in Houston, deny flood repair money, too.

So is Morales Shaw, an attorney, widowed single mother, and activist for progressive causes such as better schools improved housing and decent wages for everyone, especially African-Americans and Latinos. She’s running for Harris County (Houston) Commissioner, in District 4, to break up the “good ol’ boys club” that controls a $2 billion budget there.

Flores is a 40-plus year shop steward, chief shop steward, union rep and now the president – though he says he’s ready to retire – of Communications Workers Local 6222.

He spends his time trying to get his members engaged and active in politics, reminding them

what they gain in bargaining can be taken away at the ballot box.

Baca is an organizer for Communications Workers District 6, which stretches from St. Louis to El Paso when she isn’t working in the global anti-fraud unit of the Houston office of the phone company.  Ortega works in that office’s dispatch unit.

And on a mid-October Saturday in Houston, which started out spring-like but quickly turned into summer heat and humidity, Baca and Ortega as volunteers went house to house, working from the Lucido campaign’s list, to try to get people to vote for her this fall.

They rang 79 doorbells and talked to those who answered about the importance of the election and the issues they and Lucido believe in. And even down on such a local level, national issues percolated.

Lucido’s GOP foe, the incumbent, supported GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s refusal to accept extra federal Medicaid money, available under the Affordable Care Act, to expand Medicaid in the Lone Star State. Abbott, of course, is hewing to GOP anti-ACA ideology, including a court suit to overturn the health care law entirely, and dog-whistling by calling the ACA Obamacare.

The result of such GOP Medicaid refusals? There are still 27.6 million uninsured adults aged from 18-65 in the U.S. That’s one of every ten, the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit health care think tank reports. In 2013, before the ACA fully kicked in, it was one of every six.

In Texas, without Medicaid expansion, it still is one of six – the worst ratio in the nation.

And that same GOP state senator, along with her Republican colleagues in the Texas legislature, refused to use millions of dollars from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help residents whom Hurricane Harvey clobbered unless the Republicans got a political bargain out of it.

Those were the issues Lucido, Morales Shaw, Baca and Ortega talked about in Houston and will continue emphasizing throughout. Coast to coast, other volunteers and candidates, including record numbers of women angered and energized by Trump, are out on the hustings, too. They, plus Rodriguez, Sampson and Flores, deserve our thanks.

But there are not enough of them. And not enough of us. That concerns Baca. That concerns Flores. That should concern you and me.

“The majority of our members that will vote will vote the right way,” for Lucido, U.S. Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke and pro-worker candidates, says Flores.

“But most don’t take the time – or don’t care.”

Democracy, you see, is hard work. You must educate yourself, Baca told voters she met. You must listen and learn about the issues, and then exercise your rights.

Trump and demagogues like him depend on you not to invest the time, effort and sweat. He and his GOP puppets draw howling but committed mobs. They cut down ballot access, too.

Now, in the campaign’s homestretch, there’s one key way to combat Republican rage: Get out there. Educate yourself on your issues and where candidates stand on them. Go door to door. Phone bank. Get active for what you believe in, and what your nation can do for you.

Tell the people you talk with that every vote counts. Remind them of elections – from Minneapolis to Houston to your hometown – decided by a handful of ballots. Remind them that what you win at the bargaining table, or through laws passed by allies, can be undone by a governor’s pen, a representative’s bill, or a president’s proclamation or executive order.

Then vote. And thank those – like Baca, Sampson, Lucido, Flores, Morales Shaw, Rodriguez and Ortega – who help make our democracy work.  Then join them.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR