Every election is determined by the people who show up.
– Larry J. Sabato, Founder and Director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics
I have a confession to make. I love politics. The strategy, the motives, the players. It has always been a favorite challenge to take what a politician says and strip it to its fundamental message. If I can do that, I can see where we are headed. I am aware of what kind of weirdo that makes me. Good thing I live in a city where we are all that kind of weirdo.
It’s harder now. Everything changes fast, and the politicians I was sure of (on both sides of the aisle) are no longer who I thought they were. But our system is stronger than a few years of turmoil. The good news is that we can change things if we are unhappy with them. The bad news is how often we don’t.
I think we look toward Washington and all we see is hallowed halls of power, “the swamp.” We tend to forget that we are the ones who put them there. We are the ones who pay their salaries. We are the ones who can fire them.
If we’re so unhappy, why don’t we fire them?
- We hate Congress, but love our Congresspeople. We love them just because they’re ours. Most of the time, we have no idea what they have voted for or against, or what kind of impact their actions have had. If we can’t look past the surface of our Congresspeople, we will remain stuck with ever-worsening gridlock until it breaks the system. For those of you who don’t think that’s such a bad thing, consider what will come to fill the vacuum. Time to start thinking about whether your representatives have done what you wanted them to do.
- The states. The state we live in controls how we vote, for both state and federal lawmakers. Many of these states have unfairly gerrymandered districts, discriminatory voter ID laws, selectively limited polling places, and several other ways to keep you from casting your ballot.
- We don’t show up. In the latest presidential election year, turnout was about 60%. The 2014 midterms didn’t even break 40%. Whether it’s apathy, time constraints, distrust of the system, or any one of a million other reasons, we just can’t make it, so we end up with something far from majority rule.
Speaking only for myself, all I want is a level playing field. If the majority of voters in this country is on one side of an issue, that’s the policy we should have. A level playing field shouldn’t mean the majority of who shows up, it should be the majority of all of us. But our lawmakers know that we don’t have the time to pay close enough attention to hold them responsible when they vote against our interests. Some of them count on that.
How does this apply to healthcare?
One of the greatest gifts the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) has given us is a change in perspective. Despite it’s unpopularity when first enacted, in an incredibly short time (eight years), American collective consciousness has come to view good health not so much as the benefit of a good perk at work, but as a fundamental right. There’s a reason the Declaration of Independence lists “life” first among the unalienable rights.
Many of the lawmakers in office right now aren’t going to protect our right to healthcare. Having failed an outright repeal of the ACA, they have decimated its funding and plan to allow states to offer plans that gut the 10 essential health benefits that assure we won’t go bankrupt from our medical bills, among other things.
There is a solution.
To borrow a phrase, vote them out. If your Congressman or Senator is one of the ones not listening to the majority who want healthcare protected, fire them as you would any other employee who refuses to put your priorities first. Register. Get your family and friends to register. Explain to them that we can’t allow ourselves to be represented by people who can hear our stories and still refuse to do everything in their power to protect our right to live.
I am not saying that everyone has to jump wholeheartedly on the ACA bandwagon. It was never a perfect solution to a complicated problem. But it’s what we have, so it’s where we start (not with rescinding CHIP funding and funds to help with patient delivery systems).
Primary season for the 2018 midterms has started. If you would like to register to vote, or help others register to vote, the following can help:
- For voter registration deadlines by state: https://www.vote.org/voter-registration-deadlines/
- To make sure you are registered to vote in your state: https://www.headcount.org/verify-voter-registration/
- For our first-time-eligible voters: https://www.18by18.vote/