The New York Times carried an ominous article in its Sunday, Oct. 15 edition about the possible outcome of the November mid-term elections. The article noted how voter intensity and grassroots efforts have motivated Democrats in a way that has been sadly lacking in recent years. At the same time, it described how Republicans have been disaffected by the incompetence of the Bush administration and a variety of scandals involving their party members. Yet the article also acknowledged that the methodical, professional and well-oiled Republican machine has long been frighteningly effective at turning out the vote.
The 2004 elections were a wake-up call for many Democrats. They found themselves asleep at the switch as Republican presidential adviser Karl Rove led efforts to bring social conservatives to the polls. Rove succeeded in placing constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in several states, and those amendments energized conservatives to vote for George W. Bush as well. More importantly, Republicans made sophisticated use of the “Voter Vault,” a voter identification database that has been developed into a weapon far more powerful than its Democratic equivalent. By using superior technology and organization to reach out and motivate voters to get to the polls, Republicans have scored a string of electoral victories. Never was that more apparent than in 2004. Since then, Democrats have recognized that they must respond with similar capabilities, but their organization and funding still lag far behind that of their Republican counterparts. There is a very real danger that the quiet professionalism of the Republican machine will surely once again trump the strident voices of re-energized Democrats.
The year 2004 was a wake-up call for me as well, so much so that I threw my hat in the ring and ran for Congress in this spring’s 3rd District Democratic Congressional primary. As you can well imagine, I have a lot personally invested in this race, and I am terribly concerned that our chance of effecting real change will once again be crushed by the big, bad Republican money machine. Those of us who seek a new direction for our country will have to get out to vote in unprecedented numbers this year. The litany of problems that face us is long: The debacle in Iraq, the criminal lack of universal health care, the tragic failures of our education system, the degradation of our environment, and the hard-hearted treatment of our poor are all issues that should motivate us to get out and vote for change. Those who decry the abrogation of our civil rights, particularly the rights of women to choose their own destiny and for gay Americans to seek equality, must get out and vote.
And those of us who are tired of having our democracy stolen by big-money interests must get out and vote.
I was thoroughly trounced in our primary by John Yarmuth, of course, but I had no qualms about throwing my support behind him once our race was over. By running next to him I learned that Yarmuth is a good man with a strong work ethic. So what if his political organization lacks the slick capabilities of Anne Northup’s? So what if he doesn’t get a seat on the Appropriations Committee? Anne Northup really doesn’t bring that much money into our local economy, and we are losing more money in Iraq every day than she’ll ever bring to Louisville in a lifetime. I know that John Yarmuth is dedicated to the principles that are important to all of us. Our only chance to end the senseless slaughter and waste in Iraq is to elect a Democratic Congress. Our only chance to effect real change at home is to elect a Democratic Congress. I am urging you to vote for John Yarmuth.
It won’t be enough for you to go to the polls this year. You’ll have to convince your friends and neighbors to go with you. Vote early at the Board of Elections on Barret Avenue by signing an affidavit that you may be out of town. I did it. Join the Yarmuth campaign’s phone bank. Sign up at moveon.org. We’re going to have to elect John and at least 217 other representatives like him if ever we are to change the troubling direction our beloved country is taking. The time has come for us to turn our growing anger and frustration into the gritty determination to vote. This is our chance for change, and we cannot afford to let it pass.
James Moore ran in the Democratic primary for U.S. Congress 3rd District in May. Contact him at [email protected]