Wednesday, October 22, 2014

General Election thoughts for 2014

First a local look

Are you ready to vote in the election scheduled for November 4th? Or – are you going to stay home, sit this one out, decide the outcome is settled and doesn’t really matter to you?

Hopefully, I can convince you to get out there and cast your ballot, vote during the early voting dates, or send a no-fault absentee mail in vote. So these are my thoughts and my ideas and not those of other organizations or parties. Now in Montgomery County, in the local area, there are few contested races – the incumbent Democratic Council members won their primaries as did the County Executive. There is no real opposition. There is one Green Candidate for County Council at Large, Tim Willard, who is expected to draw some votes. The State voters guide link is here.

Some new candidates appear on the ballots for Delegate across the county as they won the nominations from the Democratic primary. Former delegate Susan Lee is nominated for the Senate seat vacated by State Senator Brian Frosh in his quest for election to the state-wide position of Attorney General.

Surprisingly, several contests are being challenged by Republicans who apparently think they can pull off upsets this year. The new editorial staff at the Gazette chose to endorse Hogan and several other Republicans this year in a departure from the past and in contrast to the Washington Post which pretty much endorsed incumbents.

There are some contests in the School Board races which are considered non-partisan. I support Jill Ortman-Fouse, a progressive candidate from Silver Spring, who is running at large. She was endorsed by Progressive Neighbors, and the Washington Post, among others. District races are contested in District 1, 3, and 5; the Post endorsed all of the School Board incumbents. Not all candidates on the board are up for election this year.

I also urge people to get involved in the campaign for Governor and Attorney General. Brian Frosh is an excellent candidate for AG; he has been a responsive and effective legislator for many years and he should be elected.

Anthony Brown and Ken Ullman should be elected Governor and Lt. Governor. The opposition candidate, Larry Hogan, has made many irresponsible statements during the campaign and I believe he would harm the state if elected. If one looks back at the disastrous term when Bob Ehrlich was Governor, one can see many parallels. To disguise the fact that the State needed money, Ehrlich imposed higher fees for many state services and left the state with a high level of underserved needs. Tuition at State colleges went up precipitously, registration and licensing fees increased.

Brown has been forced into saying he will not raise taxes, but I think that is the wrong answer. There are just sometimes the state needs to provide necessary services and the increase may be required. We cannot continue to rely on gambling interests to solve all of our budget needs. Maryland is proudly a Blue state and should stay in the Blue column.

It stood for important rights such as abortion access, freedom to marry and for the Dream act. It imposed restriction on lax gun laws and regulated excessive multi-shot clip sizes which will hopefully decrease mass shootings. Wise restrictions on background checks and gun magazines were imposed. The Health care law transition did not go smoothly, but the state did employ a national leader to develop it and was an early adopter of health care expansions. The goal was set to help Marylanders and the state did not deny services as many states under Republican controls have done.

Now for a few words about the national contests

There are too many contests and too many issues for this blog to do them justice right now, but it is important to note that the media and the right are driving the agenda in a negative way again this election. President Obama is only polling in the 40% range and has lost much support from the left due to the war in the Middle East and from the right because of the Ebola epidemic in Africa. He pulled the troops out of Iraq as promised, and now is being blamed for the debacles of ISIL (ISIS or whatever name one chooses). The administration worked hard to get a new government in Iraq and assisted with the resolution of the election in Afghanistan.

As a health care professional, I agree with those who state that we are not, as a country, endangered by the Ebola virus. It is contained in Africa and has not spread much beyond the original affected countries. Nigeria and Senegal have had success in containment and quarantines. There is no need to close our borders or restrict travel or trade. This issue is being used much as the Republicans used "security" in 2004 to counter the previous Democratic wins with "soccer Mom" voters.

No matter that the economy is much better than even two years ago when President Obama beat candidate Romney with more than 50% of the voting public.

Unemployment is at its lowest rate since Bush was in office. The Housing market is rebounding, home prices are increasing and foreclosures are reduced. The Stock Market has seen some recent skittish days but it is still some 7,000 points higher than it was when Obama took office.

Still, because so many more Democrats are up for reelection in a season where their traditions are endangered and the President is embattled, the control of the Senate, currently in Democrat hands, is jeopardized. Many pundits are grimly pointing out that the odds are not favorable and off year elections are notoriously detrimental to the party of the President.

I do not have a crystal ball, but I do hope that reason and right can prevail. Am I a dreamer? I think not. It is reality that the economy has improved. It is true that many more people are employed and do have healthcare than when the President was elected. It is true, that we are as a country, seeing rights of everyday people expanded -- even as the wealthy grab for an even larger share of the economic pie and the rich fat cats of Citizens Untied fame try to get even more.

Women, especially, need to step up because the Right to Choose remains out of reach for many in red states. Minorities know that the promised immigration reform was torched by the Republican House and voting rights have been trashed by the Republican judges on the Supreme Court. Governors in many red states have worked to reduce voter access and options.

From my point of view each of these groups need to step up now and vote in the Democratic columns all up and down the ballot -- but will they? The turnout is usually much lower in the mid-terms, there is no compelling controversy nationwide, so will the committed Democratic base stay home or will they vote? Will the women, African Americans, Asian voters and disappointed Hispanic voters show up? Or will the Republicans be able to drive the angry white male voters who have been their most loyal followers, scare the security moms and capture the Independents who are up for grabs?

Tough questions and tough choices face the voters. Will you be among those who make a difference? Will you speak up and get your friends out to vote in the Democratic column? It is indeed up to each of us. If the Senate flips to Republican control and we have Mitch McConnell as the leader of the Senate for the next 4 years, gridlock will be even worse than it is now and the President will get little of his agenda enacted. Will you do your part to prevent this?