No time for complacency

GEORGE GRESHAM 1199SEIU President | 10/4/2012, 1:52 p.m.
I agree with New York Yankee great Yogi Berra, who said, "It ain't over till...
George Gresham, President 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

I agree with New York Yankee great Yogi Berra, who said, "It ain't over till it's over." And it's not because I live in the Bronx, home of the Yankees, that I'd rather listen to Yogi than to the pundits who have declared the presidential election over.

This is no time to rest. Yes, at the time of this writing, President Barack Obama seems to be leading in the polls, while Mitt Romney continues to come off as clueless. But we should not be lulled into a false sense of security. Much can happen between now and Election Day. In fact, I would not put anything beyond GOP guru Karl Rove, including shameless thievery. (In the 2000 presidential race, for example, Al Gore received more votes than George W. Bush. A recount in Florida could have declared Gore the winner of the state and the presidency. That recount was blocked by a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court.)

We've made a solid case for Obama. He inherited the nation's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and he stopped the hemorrhaging. He was handed an unpopular and senseless war. He ended it. He recognized the precarious existence of the 46 million Americans who lacked health insurance. He signed the Affordable Care Act. When extremist Republicans turned their back on the nation's ailing auto industry, the president boldly rescued it.

Further, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created 3.6 million jobs. The $50 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program helped families remain in their homes. The establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau helps protect the 99 percent from the big banks' predatory practices. Our president has affirmed his support for people to marry anyone they love. He supports the DREAM Act--a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants--and he announced in June that he will stop deportations and begin granting work permits for some DREAM Act-eligible students.

Meanwhile, Romney continues to demonstrate his undying loyalty to the 1 percent. He sincerely believes that corporations are people, yet not part of the 47 percent of the people he has summarily dismissed. In that regard, it might be instructive to revisit the last presidential campaign. Then, complacency was not an issue. Earlier in 2008, many of us still firmly believed that voters were not yet ready to elect an African-American to the office of president. We dismissed the poll numbers that had Obama comfortably ahead. No lead was big enough.

We were often reminded of the "Bradley effect," which refers to the late Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost a 1982 race for governor of California although he was ahead in the polls. The Bradley effect holds that a significant number of voters will tell pollsters they are undecided or are likely to vote for an African-American candidate, but on Election Day they cast their ballots for the white candidate.

We recognize that our nation's democracy has always been flawed. After the American Revolution, the right to vote in most of the 13 states was limited mainly to property-owning white men. Poor whites, immigrants, African-Americans, Native Americans and women were excluded.