Change agenda doesn’t happen overnight

By Tom Chamberlain, Oregon AFL-CIO President

As we knocked, called and talked with voters this primary season, a disturbing trend was revealed: Many Oregonians believe that they can’t make a difference, that their vote doesn’t matter.

The 2008 election was an election of hope and change.  America was engaged and revitalized. Record numbers volunteered to work on campaigns, registered to vote, and went to the polls while our country slipped into the abyss of the Great Recession. Within heartbeats of President Obama taking office, Republican Congressional leadership stated that their agenda was to deny President Obama a second term. No wonder an agenda of hope and change that could have provided the path to get our people back to work stalled.

If 2008 was the election of hope, 2010 was an election of hopelessness.  We learned what an agenda to defeat a president was, as job creating legislation such as the transportation bill came to a standstill. Washington’s political brinksmanship combined with high unemployment soured America on Congress. We watched hope-legislation get filibustered to death. With no hope in sight, middle America stayed away from the polls as corporatist candidates won elections, creating further dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and within our state and local governments.

Our nation slowly crawled out of the shadow of the Great Recession, thanks to quick actions by the 2009 Democratically-led Congress and President Obama, who were able to pass job-creation legislation. But the recovery has been slow and Americans have completely tuned out the dysfunction in Washington, D.C.
The 2012 election could become the election of apathy, an election where millions of voters don’t engage, don’t vote, and don’t volunteer.  If that occurs, Karl Rove, Wall Street, and those who subscribe to the Ayn Rand philosophy of “me first,” will win.  Their election strategy is to stop you from voting.

A change agenda doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a month. It takes years. And it never occurs without a prolonged struggle. Take marriage equality.  Over 52 percent of America now supports marriage between two consulting adults not limited to a man and a woman. Such support was decades in the making. It occurred because the LBGT community had the courage to face a storm of personal risk and challenges as they told their family, friends and community who they were.

Courage and hard work are bringing change. We need every union member, working family, and middle-class Oregonian to take up that attitude of not giving up; the attitude of no surrender and fighting on. Otherwise, we will be giving our votes away, and our economy with them.

2012 can be the real election of change. If we work together, vote and fight this could be the election that will put our country back on track toward fairness and equity. If we sit on our hands and remain apathetic, big money will win and we will continue down the path of low wages, no benefits, and underfunded education and health care. The choice is yours.

Whose side will this election fall to?

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