TUNE IN, TURN OUT:
In 2004, the anticipated surge in voting among traditionally Democratic constituencies–the young, minorities, low-income families–never materialized. Turnout among black and Hispanic voters trailed that of whites by at least 7 percent; people earning more than $50,000 outvoted those making less than $20,000 by 34 percent; and 72 percent of Americans 55 and older showed up at the polls, compared with only 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds.
But activists are optimistic that 2008 will be different. “We didn’t have to go hunting for people this year,” said
‘s state director in Ohio. “People come up to us saying, ‘You bet I want to vote. This election is historic.'” ACORN and
have partnered to sign up 1.3 million new, mostly low-income voters, including 153,898 in Pennsylvania, 151,812 in Florida and 247,335 in Ohio, all important swing states.
Rock the Vote
has accumulated an additional 2.5 million new registrations.
Smaller, more targeted efforts have also been successful. A sixty-day registration drive in eleven states organized by the
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
signed up 60,000 new voters. Student PIRGs have helped to register 110,000 voters on college campuses;
has registered 57,000 people just at concerts; and the
Hip Hop Caucus
has signed up 50,000 18- to 29-year-olds without a college degree, a group deeply underrepresented at the polls. Now, says Gall, “it’s our job to make people understand: you are registered, you can vote.” LUCAS MANN
THE CONNERLY CON:
Judging by recent polls, voters in Colorado and Nebraska seem likely to pass anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives on November 4. Behind these measures lurks
, the former University of California regent who has made a career of opposing affirmative action to redress inequalities in college admissions, hiring and the awarding of state contracts. Connerly, who has lobbied successfully for similar initiatives in California, Michigan and Washington, has appeared on radio ads and televised debates supporting the measures in Colorado and Nebraska.
, executive director of the
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center
, argues that the popularity of the measures–both are polling at better than 60 percent–is largely due to their misleading wording on state ballots. “These measures are cloaked in deception,” she says, noting that they promise to end discrimination or preferential treatment for “any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” The BISC is working to educate voters about the potential impact of the ballot measures, and has run ads drawing attention to how Connerly has benefited from his racist work. Between 1997 and 2006, Connerly paid himself $7.6 million through the two tax-exempt nonprofit organizations he runs–the
American Civil Rights Institute
American Civil Rights Organization
–prompting an IRS investigation that is still in progress. COLE ROBERTSON
Conservatives are taking a whack at workers’ and immigrants’ rights in several states. In Missouri the state legislature is pushing
Constitutional Amendment 1,
which would designate English as the official state language, despite the fact that the legislature has never conducted a meeting in any other tongue. In Arizona anti-immigrant groups are pushing
, which would punish employers by stripping them of their business licenses if they knowingly hire noncitizens who are not eligible to work in the United States. To date no employer has been prosecuted under a similar law passed in 2007 by the state legislature.
In Oregon, anti-tax zealot and perennial booster of conservative ballot efforts
is backing three anti-labor and anti-immigrant initiatives.
would wipe out labor contracts by imposing “merit pay” on the state’s teachers.
would prohibit the use of union dues for political purposes. And
would limit non-English-language instruction in public schools to two years. A 2002 jury found Sizemore guilty of falsifying signatures in order to qualify initiatives for the ballot and of filing false financial reports. Union contributions are also under attack in South Dakota, where Grover Norquist’s
Americans for Tax Reform
is funding the deceptively titled Open and Clean Government Act. If passed, it too would prohibit labor unions from contributing to political campaigns or lobbying the state government. ROBERT ESHELMAN
ROW E FOR OBAMA:
We all know it’s critical that
win this election, but we also know that an Obama win in itself will not build the movement we need to reconstruct our country. In November, many of us can cast our vote only for Obama, not for the broader democratic movement that is so badly needed. Except in New York. Thanks to the state’s “fusion” voting system, New Yorkers can vote on the
Working Families Party
(WFP) ballot line, voting for Obama and also for the movement needed to push him and Congress to the left. Founded in 1998, the WFP has used its ballot line as leverage to force passage of a higher state minimum wage, a higher income tax on New York’s wealthy, reform of the Rockefeller drug laws, public financing of elections and much more.
The Nation was an early supporter of the WFP, and we’ve watched with pleasure as it has grown, combining a broad progressive vision with concrete political victories. We’ve also run articles critical of it (which prompted WFP letters in kind), and the WFP has sometimes endorsed candidates we’ve criticized. That said, The Nation and the WFP share the belief that the path to a revived progressive politics runs through a reinvigorated labor movement and must be built on a multiracial foundation.
Some of us support Obama with unalloyed enthusiasm, while others regard his victory as essential simply to avoid the catastrophe of another four years of Republican rule. But all of us know that the real work doesn’t end with a new administration in Washington. It will be more urgent than ever to organize locally and build a clear alternative to the neoliberal consensus of both parties. By supporting Obama and the Democrats on the WFP line,
, New Yorkers can begin that work now. (For a longer version of this article, go to thenation.com/edcut.) KATRINA vanden HEUVEL