You’ll hear a lot in the coming days about what yesterday’s election results mean for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the Tea Party, for President Obama, for health care reform, for Wall Street… the list goes on. Personally, I think our time is better spent thinking about what it means for regular Americans – the people who go to work every day, to do their best to put food on the table and send their kids to school, and worry about keeping their homes and saving for the future.
Over the last two years, under the leadership of President Obama and Democrats in Congress, our country has made some great strides. Together, we passed a law that makes our health care system fairer, more affordable, more accessible, and less vulnerable to abuse. To be sure, there are aspects of the law we need to fix, just as Social Security needed to be adjusted shortly after its creation. But the reforms we passed are a great start, and we should not cast them aside. We reigned in the wild-west behavior on Wall Street with a financial reform law that will protect consumers, not big banks. We invested in job creation and education. We took a stand against wage inequality and hate crimes.
I am consistently amazed by how successfully opponents of reform have drowned out all those accomplishments with a chorus of “NO” and empty, misleading rhetoric designed to incite fear and hate. Those most primitive of emotions seem to have won out in this year’s elections, overshadowing reason, progress, and hope.
The truth is, Americans have every right to be angry. For all the talk of the recession ending and the markets bouncing back, regular people are still struggling to make ends meet. If this is a recovery, most of us certainly aren’t sharing in it. What we must guard against is not anger, but those who seek to hijack it to advance their own agendas. And sure, times are tough, but where would we be if Republicans had controlled Congress and the White House these last two years? We’d still be living in a country whose health care costs were spiraling out of control; a country where Wall Street was allowed to run roughshod over Main Street; a country whose government mandated education reform but refused to invest in it. I, for one, am glad we came together to change that country for the better.
It’s clear we have to work harder than ever to make sure that progress and recovery continue. The deficit is a real and growing problem that we must address effectively – and smartly – in the coming years. Addressing it smartly means not taking a machete to government programs that people depend on, like Medicare and Social Security, but rather reevaluating our country’s priorities and commitments to create savings without leaving struggling, hard-working people out in the cold.
So what can working people take away from yesterday’s elections? Should we jump on the fear and hate bandwagon? No. We should, instead, work to strengthen and amplify our collective voice in support of the policies and people we believe in. Working people make America work. Let’s see to it that November 3, 2010, goes down in history as the day American workers decided never again to let the wealthy minority hijack the political conversation in this country.