Voting Matters!

Monday, October 1st, 2018 @ 8:36AM

The social work Twitter community was abuzz Thursday night with a spirited Twitter chat highlighting the social work Voter Engagement campaign that is underway. These Twitter conversations are regular events hosted by #MacroSW.org out of the State University of New York at Buffalo where Twitter maven Nancy J. Smyth is dean and thought leader. Many questions were answered, and much information shared. The featured participant was Dr. Terry Mizrahi, professor and chair of Community Organizing, Planning and Development at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, who along with her Hunter colleague Dr. Mimi Abramovitz, professor of social work, are leading the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. Information is available at VotingIsSocialWork.org.

Terry and Mimi have supercharged an undertaking that began as a joint effort by CRISP, Influencing Social Policy, and the Nancy A. Humphrey’s Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut funded by the Fund for Social Policy Education and Practice. Tanya Rhodes Smith, the director of the Humphrey’s Institute continues to be a leading figure, developing and producing webinars for the campaign. A major effort of the campaign involves getting field placement agencies to incorporate voting awareness and registration in their engagement with consumers. The idea is to demystify political participation and help agency administrators understand that nonpartisan voter engagement is legal, ethical and professional and central to social work values and mission.

The current drama involving the selection of the next Supreme Court justice should be the last wake-up call Progressives need to recognize the extreme measures the Republican Party will use to keep power in the hands of corporations and the privileged few. Their efforts to “plough through” with an obviously flawed candidate demonstrate a woeful distain for democratic processes and principles. A recent NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll found 43 percent of respondents opposed Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and 38 supported him. Whether the FBI’s investigation will provide evidence to support the allegations of sexual misconduct brought by three women is yet to be seen. However, the display of bellicosity, outright partisanship, and lack of temperament by Kavanaugh during the hearing should be disqualifying by itself.

Republicans have been emboldened by recent electoral successes, particularly Trump’s unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton despite her receiving nearly three million more votes—the largest margin by a losing presidential candidate. Razor thin losses to Trump in key swing states gave the Electoral College count to Republicans. A total of 107,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin spelled the difference. Had Green Party candidate Jill Stein voters pulled the lever for Clinton, she would be President. We’ve seen this before back in 2000 when Ralph Nader votes in Florida denied Al Gore the election with the help of the Supreme Court. Similar vote totals kept Republicans in control of the Senate in 2016.

There has been speculation that infighting among Democrats could derail the anticipated blue wave in November. It is difficult to devise a political strategy to compete with a party that is willing to use every dirty trick in the book, including outright lying to the American people on a regular basis. Add to that voter suppression through voter ID laws, indiscriminate purging of voter registration rolls, extreme gerrymandering, and fearmongering to the point American citizens of Latino descent are wary of casting votes because exercising their rights as a citizen could lead to heightened scrutiny on themselves or members of their families. We are dealing with Republican leaders who have no shame.

During the last few weeks, we have witnessed the specter of entitled white men controlling the levers of power during the Kavanaugh nomination. They have been in control since the beginning of the American experiment and believe they and only they should be in charge. Tough immigration policies may slow the browning of America, but there is little they can do to stop women from seeking a larger role in government. A record number of women are running for office during the midterm elections. Times are changing.

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