Before the mid-term election, most analysts predicted that voting would be driven again by “It’s the economy, stupid!” — a phrase used by Bill Clinton in his successful 1992 presidential campaign.
Despite the fact that we all want an improved economy, the electorate showed the issues were broader and stakes even greater.
While exit polls reported that bringing down inflation was a top priority, the polls and actual outcome also revealed people want other concerns addressed as well. Most importantly, they want mature, honest and thoughtful leadership to maintain our democracy.
At all levels of government, our elected officials would do well to listen to voters’ intent and act responsibly on their behalf.
It doesn’t matter that inflation is a global issue — driven by the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and other factors beyond our control. People need economic relief at the grocery store and gas pump and when paying their utility and health care bills. Others want lower interest rates and recovery in the value of their investments.
The newly elected U.S. Congress should have a head start in helping improve the financial picture given the bills President Biden already signed into law. These include the Inflation Reduction Act that will eventually lower health care costs and the CHIPS and Science Act designed to bring key manufacturing jobs back to America. It also includes the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that is already helping fund critical repairs of bridges and roads and expanding broadband access to rural communities.
It will take time to fully realize the positive impact of these previous legislative successes, aided by the necessarily tough decisions of the Federal Reserve to curb inflation.
The electorate made it clear that they have faith in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, as essential sources of financial support for many.
In addition to the economy, voters are calling upon public officials to address climate change, gun violence and other factors threatening our communities. The majority of voters across the county also rejected draconian actions to restrict reproductive and other human rights.
At this time in American history, our citizens overwhelmingly reaffirmed that the United States is a democracy. They are beckoning our leaders to unite in helping our nation be the “shining city on a hill” that President Reagan envisioned. They accepted President Kennedy’s call for us to “stand for freedom” — with some voters demonstrating this commitment by standing for hours to cast their vote.
Hopefully, this marks the end of election deniers and voter suppression. Maybe all can now work to restore faith in our election process and prevent future January 6 insurrections.
2024 will be here before we know it. We have two years to judge how well our leaders have united to act in our best interest to address economic woes, tackle the many other voter concerns, and further build trust in our Democratic principles.
The whole world is anxiously watching as we proceed. Our strength and moral fiber are vital to our future as well as to those around the globe who yearn for peace, food security, honest and caring leaders, and so much more.
Dennis Streets is the retired director of the Chatham Council on Aging.
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