by Eric Rader
HRC information on elections:
Pro-LGBT Congressional candidates in Michigan who need help:
Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Hills)
Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek)
Natalie Mosher, running to unseat Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) in the 11th district
Now that Labor Day is over, campaign season is officially upon us. Over the next two months, candidates for federal, state and local offices will be bombarding the airwaves with ads, knocking on thousands of doors and making their final pitches to the voters.
The current polls give an edge to Republican candidates in races across the country and here in Michigan. The so-called “punditocracy” has already awarded the election to the GOP, and many Democrats are despondent over the potential loss of control in Congress. However, it’s important to remember that the election does not take place until Nov. 2, and not a single vote has been cast. A little perspective is needed before people get too far ahead in predicting what will happen in two months.
Traditionally, the party of the incumbent president loses seats in Congress during a midterm election. The most significant loss in recent years occurred in 1994, when Bill Clinton’s Democrats famously lost control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years. In 2006, George W. Bush’s Republicans lost control of Congress, mostly as a result of the administration’s unpopular Iraq War decisions. Democrats have known since 2008 that the Republicans would probably make gains in this midterm election, given the difficult economic environment, one of Bush’s notorious legacies. But a Democratic loss of Congress is far from a foregone conclusion this year.
One of the factors that seems to be helping the Republicans right now is the “enthusiasm gap” with the Democrats – Republicans are simply more excited right now about their prospects for victory than the Democrats.
Part of the excitement on the Republican side is a result of the activities of the Tea Party movement, which has fielded a number of candidates in Republican primaries this year. The Tea Party candidates have passionate followers who are dedicated to overturning what they see as the “socialist” agenda of President Obama and the Democrats. There is not a similar movement on the Democratic side, and leaders of the party are having difficulty mobilizing passion for the upcoming election.
The Tea Party movement, however, may provide some assistance to Democrats in their efforts to preserve control of Congress in this year’s elections. Recent polls have shown that while the voters in many states may currently favor the Republicans in head-to-head match-ups, the inclusion of Tea Party candidates shakes things up for the GOP. In a number of states, these candidates have won Republican nominations for U.S. Senate and U.S. House against favored “establishment” candidates. The result is that a number of the nominees are people with very little political experience and radical viewpoints on the issues, giving Democrats a chance in those races.
While the Democratic Party is not popular right now, polls show that the Republicans are even less popular. Obviously, the sour economy and controversy over (necessary) government spending is what’s driving much of the support for Republicans right now – it is certainly not the popularity of the Republican Party.
As November approaches, it’s important that the LGBT community understand the stakes in this election. While it can sometimes feel as if progress on issues of equality is slow, it will be non-existent if the Republicans take control of Congress next year. The more socially-conservative Republicans would do everything they could to block pro-LGBT presidential nominees for high-level positions in the government and on the federal judiciary. It is certain that the Republicans would attempt to quash the president’s efforts to allow gays to serve openly in the military and his push to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. And there is almost no chance that a Republican Congress would allow the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to become law.
Republicans would also reduce or eliminate funding for programs that benefit struggling Americans, including the new health care law.
Voters should also remember that when the Republicans last controlled Congress, they attempted to pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage, with the support of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the two men who would lead Congress if the Republicans win this year.
Voters who support progressive causes need to vote this year – don’t sit at home. When people stay at home on Election Day, they are ceding the power to decide our country’s future to others. The other side will certainly turn out to vote this year. We simply cannot allow these negative forces of reaction to take us backward.
Don’t believe the polls: Vote, get involved, and stay educated about this year’s elections. We can’t forfeit this election; the cost for our country is simply too high.