My wife, Jan Schakowsky, and I are friends with a wonderful woman named Bea. Bea is now 95 years old. Bea was born in 1917.
She was born in a country where women couldn't vote. In some areas of the country, just fifty years before, slavery had been legal. Collective bargaining was not recognized under the law. Poverty was rampant -- especially among the country's oldest citizens.
Bea was born in a country where there was an unimaginable gulf between a few fabulously wealthy oligarchs, and the masses of ordinary people. It was a country where only a tiny fraction of the population ever went to college -- or even graduated from high school -- a country were hardly anyone was considered "middle class." It was a country where there were few regulations to protect health and safety on the job, no national child labor laws, no federal minimum wage, and very little to prevent corporations from recklessly destroying the environment.
Bea was born in a country where people of color were considered second-class citizens and discrimination against them was enshrined into law -- a country where gays and homosexuals could be prosecuted for their sexual orientation.
Bea was born in the United States of America.
Over her lifetime, Bea has been involved in many of the great social movements of our time -- movements that helped transform our country into the envy of the world.
She was active building the labor unions that build the middle class. won a living wage, weekends and a 40-hour work week, pensions for retirement, and the passage of Social Security and Medicare that ensured a retirement free of poverty.
She marched with the civil rights movement that gave people of color an equal status in American society.
Bea became a public school teacher and helped educate an ever-expanding number of ordinary Americans -- watching more and more of them go on to college to fulfill their dreams.
She was part of the women's movement that demanded equal status and equal pay for women -- as well as the right for women to control their own decisions about contraception and abortion.
This year, Bea -- at 95 years old -- is working on a phone bank to turn out voters for Barack Obama. She says that if Mitt Romney and the Republican Right win the election on Tuesday, they have made clear that they absolutely intend to destroy all of the things for which she has struggled her entire life. She's right.
Mitt Romney has demonstrated over the years that he has only one real core value: his own success.
Throughout his career, Mitt has demonstrated that he will do whatever is necessary to benefit himself -- and his investors. At Bain Capital he didn't flinch when it came to destroying other people's jobs and lives if it would make him and his investors money.
Now his "investors" are the oligarchs of the Republican Right -- people like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson -- who, between them, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get him elected. Many are the same people who funded the Tea Party movement. Others are the Wall Street hedge fund barons whose recklessness collapsed the economy and came very close to recreating a Great Depression.
These people -- and their Tea Party allies in Congress -- have shown the country that they have no intention of compromise. They are intent upon rolling back all of the things Bea has fought for -- on sending us back to the Gilded Age. They truly believe that America would be a better place without labor unions. They want to eliminate Medicare and replace it with vouchers of ever-shrinking value that pay private insurance companies.
They want to be free to despoil the environment, do away with public education, eliminate jobs, cut wages, and continue to appropriate every dime of economic growth that is generated by our increasingly productive labor force.
As President Obama said in the second presidential debate, they want send us back to the foreign policy of the 1980's, a social policy of the 1950's and an economic policy of the 1920's. They believe in a society where the law of the jungle reigns supreme -- where you look out for yourself above all else -- where, if you believe you are your brother and sisters' keeper, that we shouldn't leave anyone behind, that we should have each other's back -- you're simply a chump.
If Mitt Romney becomes president, Republicans keep control of the House and win the few seats necessary to control the Senate, there will be nothing to restrain them from making their vision of society a reality in America -- from taking America backward to a time most of us cannot imagine.
What are some of the things a President Romney has promised to do?
- Eliminate Medicare and convert it into a voucher for private insurance -- ending the most popular and successful health care program in American history and raising out of pocket costs for seniors by6,500 a year.
- Privatize and cut Social Security - handing over the Social Security Trust fund to Wall Street and eliminating guaranteed benefits.
- Appoint -- most likely two -- Supreme Court justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, outlawing abortion rights -- and most likely make the Court a firm ally of unrestrained corporate and Wall Street power for generations.
- Repeal Wall Street Reform. Return us to the pre-crash law that would allow Wall Street to once again run wild, gamble with more and more exotic financial instruments, make a fortune for itself -- and once again wreck the economy.
- Repeal ObamaCare. That by itself would end the promise that no one will ever again be bankrupt by a sudden illness. It will return us to a very recent time when someone who has a pre-existing condition can be denied insurance coverage - and that insurance companies can call the shots when it comes to your health care.
- Pass the Ryan Budget. That would mean slashing critical federal expenditures that benefit the middle class and those who aspire to the middle class, like cutting Medicaid that pays for health care for the poor, children and those in need of nursing homes or home care -- and slashing funds for education and college grants.
- Increase military spending by two trillion dollars above the amount requested by the military leadership. That might benefit big defense contractors, but it would make it practically impossible to reduce the giant federal deficit.
- Give the wealthy an additional 5 trillion dollar tax cut and pay for it by increasing the effective tax rate paid by the middle class.
- Stop funding for Planned Parenthood and any other family planning programs that we fund around the world that use their own funds to pay for abortions.
- Try to pass the "Personhood" Amendment that would effectively outlaw all abortions and many forms of hormonal contraception.
- Allow many of the same Neo-Con foreign policy advisers who got us into the Iraq War to once again take control of American foreign policy.
- Veto the Dream Act that would allow young people who were brought to America as children to apply for citizenship.
- Eliminate the Presidential Directive that prevents the deportation of Dream Act-eligible young people.
- Empower people like Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who wrote the Arizona "papers please" law and now serves as Romney's chief adviser on immigration.
- Slash environmental regulations and investment in clean energy development.
The list goes on and on.
But worse than the individual initiatives that Romney and Ryan have made clear they would undertake, is the attitude they would bring to decision-making.
Romney's true views were laid bare in the now famous "47 percent video" where he explained how he could not convince 47% of Americans to take responsibility for their lives -- people like retirees who worked all of their lives for their Social Security and Medicare -- people like veterans who risked their lives for the country -- people like the disabled -- in fact, pretty much anyone who doesn't agree with his "we're all in this alone" view of American society.
If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are elected on Tuesday, they will turn back the clock on progress in America. If they are allowed to do so by a Republican House and Senate, they would return us to a time we could scarcely imagine.
For those who believe in a society where we're all in this together, Tuesday's election is the mother of all battles.
But if we all vote, we will win -- it's that simple. If you care about the future society we leave to our children; if you believe that we can once again have an expanding, robust middle class; if you believe that the American Dream is not dead and that our children should be able to look forward to more opportunity than was available to their moms and dads -- there is no excuse not to vote.
We simply cannot allow the millions of right wing special interest money to buy America's democracy.
Where you can, vote early. Regardless, get to the polls. If you need to stand in line, stay there until you vote. Everyone who is in line will have a chance to vote, even if the lines are long.
However it turns out, Tuesday will mark a decisive, historic turning point in American history. Together, if we all vote, we have the power to continue America's progressive tradition. We have the power to move America forward, not back. We have the power to assure that at this decisive moment we once again bend the arc of history toward justice.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.