Midterms Are Over: Get to Work
Ours is a Government of Representation
With the midterm elections behind us, it’s time to get to work. The founders of this country decided on a form of government that is in service to its citizens. That’s a democracy. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a democracy as a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections. The bold phrases are my emphasis. Elected officials are to represent us. Our job is to hold them accountable for representing us.
The elected representatives are to advance agendas that meet the needs of the people who elected them. Sure, it’s a difficult task because the American people are highly polarized. But, the responsibility of our elected officials is to find common ground to move this country forward in a positive direction. Instead, too much partisanship has gotten in the way of a healthy democracy. We see politicians on all sides (Republican, Democrats, and Independents) take positions simply because that’s the way of the party, not necessarily because that’s in the best interest of their constituents. That’s not representation. The majority of the people voted them into office. If they remain in office, it is because the people are okay with being misrepresented or they feel powerless to make a change – which then questions the strength of our democracy.
Issues That Need Our Attention
I hope that following this election cycle, the people are more awake and understand there are issues too important to be mishandled or swept under the rug. Regardless of where you are, there are issues that need our attention. They affect all of us. We must demand that our elected officials represent us. Five issues that must have bipartisan support are:
Our teachers and students deserve more and better. We, as a country, will not be successful if we do not educate all of our children equally. It’s time to fund education equitably. Give our teachers the pay and resources they need to teach our children from pre-school to higher education. These are our children and the next generation of Americans who will lead us.
What can you do? Reach out to your representatives and demand funding for education. If you think there is enough funding, then ask for a report accounting for how education funding is being spent in your state and nationally. If there are inequities, which there are, you just found your cause.
Through the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), millions of Americans who did not have healthcare or who were denied due to pre-existing conditions, now have the care they need. But this work is not done. The enactment of the ACA is flawed. Bipartisan effort must be made to strengthen our healthcare reforms, fund them, and ensure that all Americans can receive care when they are sick. If we are such a generous and abundant nation, how is it that we’re still battling over whether healthcare is a right?
What can you do? Learn more about the ACA provisions. Write a note to your representatives and ask them to work to make healthcare accessible and affordable to all Americans. And if they don’t, then you have the power of the vote. Get them out of there. They don’t deserve to represent the people. Our representatives have the assurance of healthcare for themselves and their families, why not all Americans?
Now that unemployment is the lowest it’s been in almost two decades, it seems elected officials on both sides of the aisle are not as focused on this issue. Yes, people are working, that’s great. But the work must continue. Too many Americans have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. Approximately 40 million Americans live in poverty and that number more than doubles when you count those who live near the poverty level. Americans need living wages. Along with being employed, living wages should be a measure of a strong economy.
What can you do? Support candidates who campaign and put legislation forth to increase the federal minimum wage.
I believe we can have sensible gun control without infringing on the spirit of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” A well-regulated militia is our military. Could it be the founders felt people had the right to keep and bear arms during times of war in order to protect themselves and their families from a siege? We cannot fully determine what the founders were thinking at that time. It’s clear they were not dealing with what we’re dealing with today. They did not have the type of assault weapons that are on the streets today. We can make the Amendment work for us and not against us. We have too many deaths at the hands of people who should not have guns. We need more provisions to regulate the selling and buying of guns.
What can you do? Join me in learning more about the existing gun laws. I confess I don’t know all that is on the books today and where the loopholes exist. Write to your representative and support legislators who are intent on solving this problem.
Literally, we have to save our planet. This is a global issue and people everywhere have to join in to care for the environment. As I write this, fires in California have burned down entire communities. The fire is still only partially contained. This summer, we saw dead sea life wash ashore along Florida beaches due to the toxic red tide. In 2017, Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria landed upon the territories and Southern borders of our country within weeks of each other. Puerto Rico has still not recovered. Even with all of the disasters, recent government actions have rolled back laws designed to protect the environment.
What can you do? Become an environmentalist. Make recycling and conservation a family activity. Write to your representatives and let them know you care about the environment and want them to fight to bring back laws that protect the environment.
The Will of the People
With the election behind us and the next general election two years away, there is plenty of time to get involved and make your voice heard. The issues above affect all of us either directly or indirectly. Perhaps there are other issues that are a priority for you. I encourage you to speak out. Get to work on the things that matter most to you.
One thing we learned from this election is that voting matters. After the election mudslinging is over, we are left with representatives who are elected to carry out the will of the people. That’s how our democracy was meant to work. Let’s make it so.
When we know better, we do better.
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© 2018 Tonya Harris Cornileus, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved.