Quantcast

Down to the Ground Game

George Gresham | 11/1/2012, 4:20 p.m.
The presidential candidates have made their cases. There's not much left to be said. President...
George Gresham, President 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

The presidential candidates have made their cases. There's not much left to be said.

President Barack Obama's record of accomplishments is well known: Ending the war in Iraq, rescuing the U.S. auto industry, passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women, the Affordable Care Act to expand health care for all, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to prevent the recession from becoming another Great Depression. The president also established the Troubled Assets Relief Program and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Obama openly supported same-sex marriage and repealed "Don't ask, don't tell." He reduced the cost of the Federal Student Loan Program and expanded Pell grant spending. He ended the prosecution and deportation of undocumented young men and women.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney barnstorms through the swing states claiming he has a five-point plan to expand the economy. But, as was evident during the presidential debates, he won't tell us exactly how he's going to do this.

With Nov. 6 nearly upon us and with the numbers so close in the swing states, the election will be won by the candidate with the best Get Out the Vote operation in the battleground states.

That is why hundreds of 1199 SEIU members and staff volunteers have been knocking on doors and calling voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and my home state of Virginia. I was among those who were overjoyed four years ago when then-Senator Obama carried Virginia, which that had not voted Democratic since the 1964 Lyndon Johnson landslide.

Winning the state and the election this year won't be as easy. Chief among the obstacles is the most intense voter suppression efforts since the days of Jim Crow. After tea party candidates captured executive posts and legislative statehouses in 2010, they pushed through a wave of voter-suppression measures. NYU's Brennan Center reports that since the beginning of 2011, 25 voter-suppression laws and two executive actions were passed in 19 states.

We in the progressive community fought back. Citizens rejected many of these laws at the polls. In addition, nearly a dozen courts overturned or weakened some of the measures, and the Department of Justice blocked others.

But it's still too soon to rest. As long as the Karl Roves and the other servants of the one percent are pulling strings, the danger of dirty tricks is ever-present. For example, by mid-October, our canvassers in Virginia and Florida were answering voters' questions about mysterious phone calls erroneously informing them that they could vote by phone.

Duly registered Florida voters also received bogus letters questioning their citizenship and eligibility to vote. The letters looked official and even appeared to be signed by local election supervisors. Dirty tricks have been reported in other states.

We are fighting these disenfranchisement efforts through our participation in Election Protection, a nationwide coalition of civil rights, labor and other progressive groups. On Election Day, Election Protection will be monitoring polling sites throughout the country for signs of voter suppression and intimidation.

As hard as pro-corporate tea party types strive to hold down the vote, we must work twice as hard to defeat these efforts by helping to get record numbers of voters to the polls. We should remind ourselves that in 2000 when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a Florida vote recount, George Bush won the state--and the presidency--by just 537 votes out of almost 6 million cast. Really, every vote does count.

I recall that the right to the ballot in Virginia was not a given for my parents. They and their generation fought long and hard for the franchise so that one day a Barack Obama could hold the highest office in the land. For the sake of our nation, our children and grandchildren, we cannot go back. That is exactly what a Romney victory would signify.

Between now and Election Day, we must work tirelessly to get out the vote for our president and elected officials who have the interests of working people at heart.

I'm forever guided by these words of our beloved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation."