Did our work change after the elections? The issues of the people we serve are still the same: generational poverty, job loss, minimum wage, homelessness, lack of documented status, etc. Inspired by the teaching of the Church, our advocacy will persevere, trying to remove the obstacles that keep people in poverty. Their needs seem only to grow larger as time passes.
This concerns Giulio Grecchi, Tucson, Voice of the Poor, SVDP Western Region Representative in a piece called “Disconcerting Trends”
Taking sides before or after the elections is not our business, as not for profit organization, but we are not happy about some trends that we have observed during this election cycle – trends, which are quite disconcerting.
(First disconcerting trend) There was a very limited voter turnout.
The turnout is always lower in the mid-term elections versus the presidential elections, but this time the decrease was huge, even when compared with the turnout of the 2010 mid-term.
Check the chart below with the participation of voter eligible population in the ten states of the Western region. The turnout went from a high of 48% in Montana to a low of 28.8 in Utah.
Among those that have not voted were most of the people we serve, many Hispanics and members of other minorities. Why? Some are using all their energies just in the struggle to survive another day, some do not have transportation to go to the polls, some cannot afford to miss part of their pay when taking time off for voting, and some simply feel so disenfranchised by the process, as not to care. In all cases, they missed the opportunity to make their voices heard.
Many Hispanics are disappointed by the years of delays in implementing a reasonable immigration reform. Many stayed home upset that the President postponed the promised Executive Action, until after the elections. They viewed the move as a betrayal, but by not voting they have shot themselves in the foot, missing the chance to send to Washington candidates more favorable to their plea.
When two thirds of the potential electorate does not participate, our democratic system is at risk.
A number of SVdP Councils helped the participation of the people we serve through voter registration efforts or by facilitating their participation in other ways. This is something that more of us can do. Let us remember to do it for the 2016 elections.
There were massive amounts spent to promote specific candidates
The second disconcerting trend is the unprecedented amount of money spent to promote specific candidates, in large part big money, corporate money and secret dark money, for a total of $3.76
Billion nationwide. About a fourth of that money came from outside groups (secret dark money). They funneled it primarily to competitive districts to influence the electorate by spreading lies about the opponent of the candidates these groups support. If you live in one of these districts, you have likely received 35/40 pieces of mail in the last month with this type of message.
“Dark money” is now the way for undisclosed interest to “buy” a candidate and to make him / her feel obligated to push their agenda in Congress. The results of this practice are very clear:
- These candidates no longer feel accountable towards their electorate
- Do not feel any need to explain what they stand for (they simply repeat as a broken record how terrible their opponents are) and
- Refuse to participate in public debates or accountability sessions organized by their If you live in a competitive district, you have seen this happening.
In an election, money equals power and money drowns out the power and the voice of ordinary citizens, especially those we serve. This is a threat to our democratic system even more than the low voters’ turnout.
Sixteen states have already passed resolutions either by the legislature or by ballot initiatives asking Congress to overturn the “Citizens United” decision. Several other states have enacted strict spending limits or disclosure rules for “Dark Money”. More states are considering following.
Overturning the Supreme Court decision on “Citizens United” seems to be a key initiative that the majority of Americans expect from the new Legislature.
When God created humankind, He instilled in each of us a divine spark that would make us grow, develop in maturity and wisdom, and become great in His eyes. He entrusted us to each other: the days of strength of one person to compensate for the days of fragility of the other. That was the plan, but not everyone liked it. Men started to erect barriers, started to grab what the weak could not defend. Whether it is Russia grabbing Ukraine, or a dictator being deaf to the plea of his subjects, or the US rejecting the desperate people knocking at the border, or an employer not paying a fair wage – that is not God’s plan. Either we strive to be part of the solution, or we become part of the problem. It is not just about hurting other people, simply being indifferent or being neutral is being part of the problem, because in our own heart we have rejected God’s plan. In His plan, He has a place for everyone; He has sustenance for everyone and a dream for everyone, if just we do not get in His way.
Source: OUT OF POVERTY… Society of St. Vincent de Paul Western Region INFORMATION FROM VOICE OF THE POOR Year 4, No. 6 NOVEMBER 2014