Voters are marching to the polls to send a message in the midterm election. That message, according to polls and pundits, is an angst rooted in social issues and the economy. A narrative has frequent play in the 24-hour news cycle: Where is the enthusiasm from progressives who were fired up during the 2008 presidential campaign?
The enthusiasm gap between progressives and conservatives is evident on comment boards, with many potential voters expressing their discontent for the Obama Administration coming up short on health care reform, financial reform and other legislation. Progressives’ grumblings are not analogous to the over hyped “civil war” of our conservative friends. These progressives are threatening not to vote, to sit on the sidelines.
Progressives or conservatives aching for change can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. And, with one in seven Americans living in poverty, chances are that person aching for change is you or someone you know.
Thanks to many of you, health insurance companies can no longer drop you from your policy without proving fraud. Parents can no longer feel the sting of health insurance companies denying coverage to their children because of a pre-existing condition. Young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they are 26. And millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions can finally receive health care with a state or federal high risk insurance pool.
Health reform is not perfect. Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna and other health insurance companies announced their plans to drop child-only insurance policies in several states. Americans stand to lose more (not to mention the opportunity to fight back) if sideliners don’t vote.
Who do progressives punish when they don’t vote? It is not politicians with their secured retirement. Perhaps these sideliners can afford to sit this election out because their lives are perfect. At least 40 million Americans’ lives are not.
Civil rights leaders did not brave the movement because they were presented with the perfect politicians, conditions and laws. They challenged an imperfect system, and made it better. I did not embark on the MoveOn-Stand with Dawn campaign for the “you go girls” and external support that would disappear as quickly as my health insurance. I participated to discuss the health care crisis with stories behind the statistics. I did not anticipate that my own symptoms would worsen in the following months. It takes courage to do your part, no matter how small, to perfect a union, and this courage does not come from political parties, PACs or presidents.
Am I encouraging sideliners to vote to toe the line? No.
Don’t vote to align yourself with progressives or conservatives. Vote because of the social issues or financial concerns that keep you awake at night. Vote in the spirit of civil rights leaders who never waited on the sidelines. They knew every vote and every action had the potential to inch this country toward a more perfect union. Every vote and every action was a message with weight.