Midterm elections: What’s at stake for communities of color?

MARC H. MORIAL | 11/5/2018, 4:58 a.m.
“When there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for ...

National Urban League

“When there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void. A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold. And demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems.” – President Barack Obama

For several weeks now, the Urban League Movement and our sister civil rights organizations have been working hard to get Americans registered to vote and finding ways to get voters to the polls through the campaign, “Enough Is Enough. VOTE!” and through our partners in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation-supported Racial Equity Anchors Collaborative.

You have seen our hashtags on social media – #EnoughIsEnoughVOTE, #TogetherWeVote and #WeVoteWeCount. You can check your registration, find your polling place and learn about the candidates on our website.

The outcome of the Nov. 6 congressional elections will have a profound impact on the nation and on communities of color in particular.

Perhaps most critical among the issues at state is health care.

For nearly a decade, the National Urban League has fought to protect, strengthen and expand the Affordable Care Act, which slashed the uninsured rate among African Americans by a third.

The House of Representatives has voted more than 60 times since 2010 to repeal the law. While Congress has not yet succeeded in a wholesale repeal, the repeal of the individual mandate – which goes into effect this year – is expected to leave as many as 13 million Americans uninsured, with premiums for ACA’s “bronze plans” rising as much as 13 percent.

Already, the uninsured rate has risen by about 2 percent, thanks to deep cuts in advertising and outreach during the marketplace open enrollment periods and a shorter open enrollment period.

We need to elect leaders who will defend and strengthen the ACA.

Our racially discriminatory criminal justice system also has degraded over the last two years.

The Justice Department has moved to abandon consent decrees – formal reform agreements with police departments accused of racially motivated excessive force and constitutional violations – and to ramp up the disastrous and racially discriminatory “war on drugs” while rescinding an initiative that reduced racial disparities in federal drug sentencing and improved re-entry opportunities for people leaving prison.

We need to elect leaders who support criminal justice reform.

The federal government used to be a champion for voting rights, challenging discriminatory practices like voter purges and restrictive I.D. laws. Its position on voting has completely reversed, as it joins state legislatures in defending voter suppression.

We need to elect leaders who will restore the Voting Rights Act and defend it.

While the unemployment rate has continued the steady decline begun during the Obama administration, Black unemployment stubbornly remains twice as high as the White rate, and wage growth has been completely wiped out by inflation.