The 2014 midterm elections: Fear and promise

Election season is upon us. Like summer locusts, emails are invading my inbox with threats and prognostications of Devastation! Disaster! Latest attacks! $750 gazillion of Koch Brothers money on GOP Senate race!

It’s gotten to the point where they’re even posing as apologetic: “Sorry to bother you on a Sunday evening but….” A year ago, the Democratic National Committee got hold of my contribution to a locally successful House candidate, and now I receive campaign alerts from all over the country, some of them several times daily. Except they got my name wrong. “Thank you for your past support, Jeffrey, we need your help again.”

Jeffrey? Yeah, they’re all calling me Jeffrey West. I’ve “replied” many dozens of times. I’m not Jeffrey. I’m Eric. No one listens, no one responds, probably no one reads my pleas. Jeffrey West, if you’re out there reading this, would you please get in touch with me? Are they calling you Eric? Maybe we can straighten this out together.

But seriously, our country is in trouble. We must do better, and the time is growing very short now.

In past years, since I have a personal and professional background in the faith and interfaith communities, I have sent out election-time appeals to my friends to vote their moral conscience. On every issue of concern to Americans, the ultra right has taken depressingly inhumane, regressive positions: No to raising the minimum wage, No to fixing our broken immigration system, No to investing in our infrastructure of roads and bridges, No to the Affordable Care Act, No to making college more affordable, No to ensuring equal pay for women, No to closing tax loopholes that reward corporations for moving jobs overseas. And on and on. What a catalogue of sins to confess! How do they sleep at night? What kind of God-fearing people are ministering to them in the houses of worship they so like to coddle?

All these progressive measures would improve our country for future generations while bringing well paying jobs to our communities. Congressional inaction has been the moral disgrace of the nation. The corporate right wing is salivating at the potential to take the Senate for the GOP, and make President Obama’s last two years in office not only a lame-duck hell, but a frontal attack on the nationwide electoral mandate that twice put him in the White House.

We’ve just seen the largest demonstration in history concerning the crucial issue of climate change: Four hundred thousand people in New York City!

Plus contingent marches all over the world. With her drought and floods, superstorms and melting glaciers, the very Earth is clamoring to put the needs of people-and the only planet we live on-before petty politics and greed.

Every issue is interconnected to every other. My friends in the religious community sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” That’s a way of saying, It’s all one, we’re all one. Not too many degrees of separation stand between education and climate change, or women’s rights and climate change, public transportation and climate change, jobs or global hunger and climate change.

I was proud of my colleagues on a United Auto Workers political endorsement panel that I served on recently. We had a candidate appear before us seeking our blessing whose campaign literature carried the union bug, who spoke well about financial reform, foreign policy, education, unemployment, and the rest. And then he made a fatal mistake: “But I gotta say this,” he said. “If it’s a choice between jobs in my district or saving some little salamander, you can bet I’m going for the jobs.”

I thought maybe it was just me, representing the National Writers Union in Southern California (a UAW affiliate), who was appalled by this guy’s crass dismissal of a unique creature that somehow made it, along with the rest of us, through the evolution wars of the last several billion years-or again, as my religious friends might put it, “one of God’s creations.”  

But no. Everyone else on that panel reacted the same way. The overarching supremacy of climate change has really gotten through. Because in the end, what happens to that salamander will happen to us. Labor knows that, and the world knows that now. Maybe more than anything, we all felt pandered to, as if a bunch of crude working stiffs would love nothing more than hearing tough man-talk about jobs, as if we didn’t also inhabit this gorgeous, fragile world of ours.

Ours. Yes, ours. The world does not belong to the oil companies, the frackers, the extractors, the refiners, the pipeliners, the coal companies, the ocean polluters, the warmongers who stalk the globe and wreck whole countries to access the gold and dollars underground.

There’s just a little over a month left before Election Day in America, one of the most fateful elections the world has ever known. Fear and promise are the two sides of this coin. It’s common knowledge that turnout falls in off-presidential election years. This time, let’s fool the pundits and the naysayers. Let’s support the candidates we like, keep the Senate, turn the House, and get out the vote, uh…like our lives depended on it!

Life itself depends on it!

Photo: Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., would lose his position as Senate Majority Leader if the GOP takes control of that chamber after the November elections.

 


CONTRIBUTOR

Eric A. Gordon
Eric A. Gordon

Eric A. Gordon is the author of a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein, co-author of composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography, and the translator (from Portuguese) of a memoir by Brazilian author Hadasa Cytrynowicz. He holds a doctorate in history from Tulane University. He chaired the Southern California chapter of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 UAW (AFL-CIO) for two terms and is director emeritus of The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Southern California District. In 2015 he produced “City of the Future,” a CD of Soviet Yiddish songs by Samuel Polonski.

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