By Dan Clay
The last election I remember being really excited about was 2008. There were two candidates that I really believed in and believed could help bring the change American workers so desperately needed.
That year Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were neck and neck in a race that highlighted ideas, positions, and, of course, Obama brought a heaping helping of hope. It was exciting. And after Obama’s victory, I believed we might be on the right track for a change. In the end, Obama’s support for free trade agreements, deals with pharmaceutical companies, and a couple other disappointments soured me on his presidency to a degree, but there were some highlights too. While the Affordable Care Act is everyone’s favorite punching bag, I have a different perspective. As a Trustee on your medical plan, I’m a fan. Your plan spends about $100,000,000 per year and even with all the hassle it has caused, the ACA has made this part of your life better by limiting gouging, banning insurance companies from predatory practices, and controlling medical inflation. But back to my original topic…
Back in 2008, I was really excited about two candidates: John Edwards and Jeff Merkley. John Edwards said all the right things, demonstrated that he understood what American workers needed, and had demonstrated that he could separate himself from Corporate America. And he did all this while carrying on with a coworker behind his cancer ridden wife’s back. While I didn’t know this at the time, I was really relieved that he didn’t get the nomination once all this came out. Yikes! Thank goodness Jeff Merkley turned out better. In fact, during the primary I was very torn between Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick who now is one of Portland’s Commissioners. In the end, Jeff won and he has been better than I had hoped. If you are an American worker, Jeff is right on almost all the issues. Never once have I thought he sold out to Corporate America. His leadership has been indispensable for Oregon and the entire country.
If I had the opportunity, I would have voted for John Edwards and been wrong. I did vote for Jeff Merkley and I think I was right. I’m sure you all have had similar experiences.
Fast forward to today… I’m not entirely thrilled with the choices we have for President. A friend sent me a picture they got off the internet. It showed a dirty truck and someone wrote on the back window “Orange Hitler vs. Grandma Nixon. Come on America.” I think that sums up where many Americans are at this election cycle.
I’ve never lied to you and I’m not going to start now. I’m not a big Donald Trump fan. Any of you that know me probably could have guessed that. I’m not a Republican, but there are many decent, honorable, and competent Republicans that I support even though I disagree with them on this issue or that issue. The Donald isn’t one of them. But Hillary Clinton wasn’t my first choice either. In fact, she wasn’t my second or third choice. But here we are. This year I have a choice of voting for Donald or Hillary. Or I can throw away my vote on a third-party candidate. Or not vote.
Unlike most of the rest of the world that votes for people in many, many different parties and then force the parties to work together to build governing coalitions, we have a “lesser of two evils” system of voting. So I’ll be voting for the Presidential Candidate I dislike the least.
But that is just one race. There are scores of candidates that either need your vote or don’t deserve it. Jeff Merkley was in the Oregon Legislature. Bernie Sanders was once a small town mayor. Your Union evaluates candidates based on where they stand on workplace/pocketbook issues. Most of the time I follow the recommendation of my union, but not always. Members of the Active Ballot Club, which are UFCW Local 555 members, send out questionnaires to any candidate who seeks our endorsement. Without a completed questionnaire, we very rarely endorse. The committee interviews the candidates. They debate who would be best for the membership. And then they make a recommendation.
Not voting is refusing to play the game and if you don’t play, you can’t win. These people, whether you like them or not, make the rules that you must live by. Nationally, people have elected leaders who made rules allowing billionaires to pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than me, my secretary, or my meat cutter friend in Eugene. They have made rules that say tricky corporations don’t even have to pay taxes. And they have made rules that mean some of the tax money you pay goes back to corporations in welfare so that they have a negative tax rate and can give more money to the billionaires. It’s utter madness.
However, I’m still excited about voting. Here’s why. Whether I know it or not, this year I am going to be voting on dozens of down ballot candidates who could either be the next Jeff Merkley or the next John Edwards. I’m praying I get it right.
If you aren’t registered to vote, you can do so by going to UFCW555.org/vote and following the links for your state. You can also talk to your Union rep. They can help you out.