As I sit here with my morning coffee on the day after the election, I am still in awe of the heroic courage of all those citizens – mostly the poor and the marginalized – who stood in line for up to 8 hours in order to vote. They are the heroes, they are the victors. In the face of one of the most blatant racist attempts at voter suppression – first by law and then by practice – these fellow citizens refused to be turned away.
Many of these hourly wage earners gave up a day’s pay in order to vote. They had to scramble to try and find childcare for their kids, and many were forced to bring their children with them. They had to stand in line with limited access to water, restrooms and food; they stood in the rain and in the cold; they stood up to the intimidation of so-called poll watchers; and they held each other up by encouraging each other to hold fast and not let anybody turn them around.
The other heroes of the day were the countless campaign volunteers, including many Pax Christi members, who knocked on doors, made countless phone calls, attended too many meetings, and provided rides, bottles of water and food to the folks in the line. They too are heroes.
Barack Obama may have “won” this election, but the victory goes to all those folks who paid a steep price to exercise their right to participate in this democracy. It should not have been so hard and we must work harder to insure that it is not so hard in the future.
As we go forward from here, let us resolve to not let their sacrifice be in vain. The folks who stood their ground and stayed in line did not vote to see the social safety net cut, or Social Security and Medicare diminished. They did not weather the storm of repression to put deficit reduction ahead of the need for good schools, affordable housing, good public transportation and a living wage. They did not give up their day’s wage to suffer under a brutally dysfunctional immigration system.
Let us honor these heroes by doubling our efforts to keep the President and the Democrats accountable to the least among us. Let’s challenge the Republicans to stop obstructing and start collaborating in service to the common good.