Down-Ballot

Opinion By Amy Hunter

"The Romney & Co. strategy is crystal clear: Make it up as you go along. Take advantage of any opportunity to sell yourself in any way necessary simply to seem acceptable. When these public positions become problematic for your donors or base, quietly reassure them in Friday afternoon media dumps and late night retractions that you really ARE, (or, aren't) as extreme as you said you were three, five, six months or more disturbingly, two weeks ago. The public, will not be paying attention ..."

I wrote that opening paragraph nearly six months ago. I repeat it here because I was thinking this morning, trying to articulate - again - what truly bothers me about this year's election. I think I finally put my finger on why I feel so ... so, passionate.

Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton said, "It's the economy, stupid."

My 2012 version, "It's the down-ballot, dummy."

Certainly, a Romney-Ryan administration would be a very, very bad thing for the economy and the country as a whole. A Romney presidency and a GOP controlled legislature would be distressingly bad, especially for LGBT people, women, minorities, the poor, and a whole list of other people, places and things. But perhaps as bad, if not worse, is what could happen if we lose the races below the top of the ticket: the down-ballot.

My presidential pick is a no-brainer. I don't need many neurons firing to look at Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and contrast them on the issues that matter to me and the progressive community in general. But as important as it is to re-elect Barack Obama as our president, we need to be aware of how our lives will be affected in immediate and very direct ways by who we send to Congress, the Senate and closer to home - our state legislature, courts and countywide offices.

In 2010, a bunch of people stayed home from the polls. As a consequence across the state, those who did vote elected a bunch of folks based solely on the idea that they were "fiscally responsible." They lied. It was the perfect bait and switch that described the Romney campaign in the first paragraph. That Mitt Romney and his cohorts are lying now seems, like I said, a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, in Michigan in 2010, enough people bought the falsehoods, and what we got bore little resemblance to their self-proclaimed fiscal conservancy. Indeed, we brought to power a cadre of extreme-right justices, legislators and statewide officials whose real agenda was limiting economic opportunity, proscribing even more rights for the already marginalized, killing public education and giving away our tax dollars to corporate interests. We can and must begin to fix what happened to our state in 2010.

As chairperson of Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality, I wrote the following in a recent op-ed for the Kalamazoo Gazette; "Michigan needs balance restored to our state and local government. It is clear from the legislation and rhetoric coming out of Lansing since 2010 that our elected government has become dominated by individuals and an agenda that serves only a narrow constituency.

"In the America of 2012, this is unacceptable, particularly in a state with as diverse an electorate as ours. Michigan history is storied and rich with ideals that enable an ever-diversifying population to contribute to and share in the promise of safe, secure and productive lives for themselves and their families. And yet, some lawmakers appear bent on limiting the promise of a better future for Michigan's citizens and residents. Indeed, to some in whom we have entrusted our future, that promise is seemingly reserved for a narrowly defined and largely fictional majority equating roughly to those 'like us.'"

President Obama's administration has ushered in a new respect for LGBT Americans at the federal level. The list of accomplishments is long but we know - and he knows - that his work isn't done. He must be given a chance to continue that work.

Unfortunately, even when we return him to the White House for another four years, those who control our state courts and legislative bodies can and will make our lives increasingly hard if we choose unwisely. The next two years in this state may well prove decisive for the future of equality for us all; not just for LGBT persons and their families, but so, too, for collective bargaining, affordable healthcare, a woman's right to choose and access to quality education. All of these and more hang in the balance depending on who we send to office in this election.

We have an historic opportunity on Nov. 6 to correct the ideological tilt of both the nation and our state. To make that correction, we must vote in record numbers and we must vote wisely, all the way down-ballot too.

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