Too many of us think that since the president isn’t on the ballot in 2014, Tuesday’s midterm election doesn’t matter. But it’s time to get rid of this misconception for the last time. Pollsters and prognosticators are speculating that African Americans won’t turn out, but this election has more at stake than the election of the first black president. This election is about protecting our children, economic development, making wise investments in our community and electing candidates that will protect America’s future and not auction it off to the highest corporate bidder.
Now is the time for African-American voters to show our collective strength at the ballot box. Of all the days to want to get involved, this is the day. Now’s the time to vote, and to take your friends and families with you to the polls. Here are five reasons why:
Keeping our communities safe. Too many black men and boys are dying. The statistics are downright tragic. Although no lawmaker or law can change that overnight, we need to get out and vote for the people who make the decisions on what happens next. We can take a stand for Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown and so many others of our young men who have lost their lives by electing leaders who will repeal “Stand your ground” laws, push to eliminate racial profiling and stop-and-frisk policies, and work with their communities to end the overmilitarization of local police departments.
Health care. While many Americans remain critical of the Affordable Care Act, the impact of the law has been astounding in the African-American community. Obamacare has provided 6.8 million uninsured African Americans with new opportunities for affordable health insurance coverage. We African Americans can use our ballots as a way to register our support for health care reform and to oppose any attempt to repeal it.
Voting rights. We have to vote in order to maintain our right to vote. With the Supreme Court’s recent decision to limit voting rights and gut the Voting Rights Act, the black electorate has to use this election as an opportunity to show that no attempt to limit our voice at the ballot box will stop our community from turning out on Election Day.
Our kids’ future depends on it. Education is front and center this election. Over the past few years, we’ve seen governors, state legislatures and even Congress slash education budgets, deplete teaching and support staff, increase class sizes, overuse standardized testing and, worst of all, close good neighborhood public schools. In many states, this election will be a referendum on those policies. Casting your ballot gives us a chance to change our country for the next generation.
America deserves a raise. An hourly wage of $10.10 an hour for America’s working families is something we should all agree on, and all the polls say the same thing: The American people know we should raise the minimum wage. Sadly, Washington and the state lawmakers are out of touch with the rest of us. In four states and a couple of cities—South Dakota, Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and San Francisco and Oakland, Calif.—voters have a chance to do what lawmakers won’t: raise the minimum wage. For the rest of us, we can use our ballots as a proxy for raising the wage by voting for elected leaders who will stand up for working folks all across the country.
No matter which party you belong to or what your values are, voting is fundamental. So get informed on the issues, empower those around you and raise your voice by heading to the polls—because a vote is a horrible thing to waste.
Richard Fowler is the host of the nationally syndicated radio program The Richard Fowler Show, which can also be viewed on YouTube as an affiliate of The Young Turks network. He appears regularly on Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Al-Jazeera America and Current TV. He was a 2012 delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Follow him on Twitter.