Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Can I say woo-hoo?

I work for a non-partisan organization, so I am not supposed to get too overly excited at election returns. But, let me just say this, a Congressional leadership that helped the administration gut overtime laws, presided over a precipitous drop in the minimum wage, cut off hundreds of thousands of workers from unemployment insurance, smiled while the National Labor Relations Board stripped down the right to organize and passed sweetheart trade deals for multinational corporations while the nation hemorrhaged good paying factory jobs has been defeated. So I think I can officially say woo-hoo!

The spin, at least, is that most people (40% according to today's times) said they cast their vote against Bush and that Iraq topped people's concerns. But, as Bill Clinton and George Lakoff both say so well in their books, people can hold more than one idea in their mind at the same time. I haven't seen the polling data about how important bread-and-butter concerns (like health insurance and increasing the minimum wages) were to voters this year.

But I was so heartened by the capsules of the new Senators in Today's New York Times. You have Sherrod Brown described as "a close friend of organized labor who campaigned against free trade and for universal health insurance." Bob Casey "a lunch bucket liberal promising action on affordable health care and stemming job losses. Bernie Sanders, "the first socialist elected to the Senate." Sheldon Whitehouse who campaigned to "pass health care reform." How about that for some fresh air. It sure sounds better than what I remember reading about Jim Demint, Tom Coburn and the class of 2004.

Something about these campaigns worked and spoke to the electorate. So even if the election was mostly decided on Iraq and anti-Bush, lets use the opportunity to take on the anxiety facing working families across the country. "Anti" sentiments don't last long, but they give a new Congressional leadership a chance to show that they can deliver policy solutions that will effect a wide swath of families. Freed from the terrible corporate cronyism that infected most legislation in the last 2 congresses (think about the massive giveaways to health care insurers in Medicare Part D), we can advance bold and pragmatic solution in health care, workplace laws, education and job training. We can't expect to get everything we want right away--but advocates should press for federal action that shows Washington can give a hand up and not a push in the face to working folks.


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