The electorate is bitter and angry. It's no wonder. Foreclosures rise while Wall Street bankers, whose recklessness caused this grave recession, grab million dollar bonuses. Unemployment is stuck at 9.5 percent, but corporations continue to ship jobs overseas.
The level of acrimony showed itself Monday in Lexington, Ky., when a group of men supporting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul threw a woman backing Democrat Jack Conway to the ground and stomped on her head.
This is not the hope America voted for in the fall of 2008. Now another election is upon us. On Tuesday, voters can choose candidates capitalizing on bitterness, or they can return to hope and provide time for change to play out. Voters can stay the course with the President whose basic philosophy is a Biblical one - that we are all our brothers' and sisters' keepers. Or Americans can empower Republicans who believe it's every man for himself, who espouse the view that a man's success is his own, and, equally, each man is solely responsible for all of his setbacks.
This midterm election is about how those disparate Republican and Democratic values will play out in legislation. Do Americans want to live in a Republican country that blames individuals for their unemployment in an economy creating only one position for every five jobless workers? Or do Americans want a country that lives by the Democratic philosophy that government must aid, not blame, the unemployed, that it must give a hand up, not a slap in the face, to the suffering?
Hard as it is during troubled times, as difficult as it may feel after some legislative efforts have fallen short of important idealistic goals, let's build a country of hope, one in which we help our fellow Americans.
That virtuous aim, of course, is the subject of ridicule. Here's Sarah Palin mocking optimistic Americans at a Tea Bagger event in February, "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?"
But come out to vote for hope Tuesday anyway; stand up to the malevolent bullies.
What the bullies want is a country where workers are on their own: for health insurance, for income security in their old age, for surviving another Wall Street collapse. For everything.
Unemployment insurance is a good example. Over the past year, the GOP has scorned the jobless, calling them lazy freeloaders. Republicans repeatedly voted against extending unemployment benefits. From the GOP point of view, Wall Street's crash didn't cause the economic collapse and high unemployment. No, according to Republicans, each unemployed worker is responsible for his situation, and it's not the role of government to intervene to help. That philosophy is behind Republican South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer's comment that the unemployed, like stray animals, should not be fed: "You are facilitating the problem if you give an animal or person ample food supply."
Come out Tuesday and vote for hope, vote to aid the unemployed.
Wall Street reform is another example of Republican "on your own" philosophy. Before the stock market crash of 1929, the unregulated American financial system whipped the economy in wild boom and bust cycles. The frequent crashes and runs on banks were called panics. In Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, Congress imposed rules on Wall Street and the banking industry. For the next sixty years the economy largely avoided panics. Then Congress lifted the regulations, and the crash of 2008 wrecked the economy. Former President Bush responded by proposing and orchestrating the Wall Street bailout. But his party vigorously opposed re-regulation to avoid another economic disaster. The GOP voted against the legislation restoring protections for the economy, investors and consumers. Republicans believe government has no business policing the free market or interceding for investors and consumers because individuals are solely to blame for everything that happens to them.
Come out Tuesday and vote for hope, vote to protect hardworking Americans against financial fraud and the machinations of powerful, multi-national financial firms.
Health insurance reform provides one of the clearest examples of Republican "on your own" philosophy. The GOP proposed that "reform" consist of granting individuals small tax breaks, about a quarter the cost of health insurance, while revoking breaks given companies that provide health coverage to workers. This, Republicans said, would "free" companies from providing insurance and "free" individuals to choose their own plans. It would have liberated individuals to negotiate coverage and claims payment with giant, sophisticated, lawyer-laden insurance corporations. If an individual got a bad deal, one that enabled the insurer to drop coverage when he got sick, deny coverage to his sick child or raise rates continuously, well, then, that would be the fault of the individual purchaser. Republicans have promised that if empowered, they will repeal the Democrats' Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Come out Tuesday and vote for hope, vote to support the health insurance reform law that uses the power of government regulation to shield policy holders from insurer abuses, that lowers costs and that enables nearly all Americans to obtain insurance.
Retirees should be "on their own" as well, Republicans believe. Some in the GOP even contend Social Security is unconstitutional. Others want to cut it or privatize it. What privatizing means is getting the government out of the business of collecting Social Security taxes to ensure that all workers receive benefits after retiring. Instead, Republicans want workers to be on their own to invest for their retirement. If there's another market "panic" - which could happen if Republicans repeal Wall Street reform - and workers lose their "privatized" retirement savings in the crash, the GOP's response would be that individuals must take responsibility - their loss is their fault.
Come out Tuesday and vote to keep America's promise to provide basic income security to all elderly citizens. Vote to be your brothers' and sisters' keeper and for them to be yours. Vote for hope.