Election day musings from a social work perspective

It’s November 8, the day of midterm elections that will determine not only the composition of the next U.S. Congress, but also more than half the states’ governorships, as well as a host of “lesser” officials ranging from secretaries of state to judgeships and school board members.

I believe that it’s fair to say, without the slightest hint of hyperbole, that the election outcomes will indeed be extraordinarily consequential. A heavy majority of Republican candidates has rallied around support for former president Trump and his Big Lie, i.e., the evidence-free insistence on a “stolen” 2020 election. Several candidates have refused to say that they’ll abide by the outcome of the election if they should lose (“heads I win, tails you lose”). Many have endorsed, at least implicitly if not openly, political violence as an acceptable tool for securing and maintaining power. And all too many are detached from historical and material reality altogether, embracing a dizzying assortment of paranoid notions of threat – from Democrat “communists,” immigrants, racial justice activists, public health officials, transgender “groomers,” Jews, and on and on – and demanding that the U.S. reject secularist religious neutrality in favor of a return to its “”Christian origins.”

It’s hardly surprising, then, that the “liberal” corporate media has been beside itself decrying and bewailing the imminent threat to “democracy itself,” or that President Biden has insisted that the nation is at an “inflection point,” with the stark choice before the electorate being between “democracy” and “authoritarianism,” indeed “semi-fascism.” (I’m not sure what justifies the “semi” qualification; perhaps the president yet longs for the good old days – now long-gone – of semi-rational political discourse.)

I’ll leave it to another post to try explaining why Democrats, not Republicans, should shoulder most of the blame for our impending slide into fascism. Today, I would have social workers – not on the whole, unfortunately, the most politically savvy bunch – simply recognize four certain outcomes of Election Day 2022:

  1. The rightwing assault on voting rights will continue, as will shrieked accusations of voter fraud (again, free of evidence) aimed at justifying still more aggressive red-state voter suppression measures.
  2. Nothing at all substantive will be done to address the deepening climate crisis. Amazingly, many Republicans have reverted to full-blown denialism, declaring claims of environmental catastrophe to be yet another liberal (socialist/communist) fraud. Democrats – themselves drenched in fossil-fuel loving Wall Street money – have already proven themselves unwilling/unable to make anything more than half-hearted gestures toward genuine climate action.
  3. Ditto the protracted public health crisis, so painfully exposed by the country’s pathetically inadequate response to the pandemic. Republicans are intent on removing all remaining COVID restrictions and vestigial government support for containing the constantly mutating virus, let alone preparing for the next health crisis, whatever that might be. Biden and the Dems pay lip service to strengthening the public health infrastructure, but there’s no money accompanying the mouth; in regard to the coronavirus, (“the pandemic is over”) Biden and the Dems have taken a de facto “let it rip” position.
  4. “Defense” and national security budgets – already consuming more than half the nation’s discretionary expenditures – will continue to careen on their out-of-control paths. Here too there seems to be a deeply disheartening bi-partisan consensus – that war, preparation for war, and surveillance of a mushrooming range of actors (including U.S. citizens) posing “threats” of one sort of another takes precedence over pressing material social welfare issues of housing, health care, adequate wages, education, family support, food and nutrition, etc., etc.

Our reality on this election day is ugly, and unfortunately promises to get far uglier, whatever the immediate outcome to today’s exercise of our “sacred democratic franchise.”

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