Friday, September 19, 2008

Why I am Still a Raza Unida Voter

If been putting this writing off for awhile. I thought it would be difficult, but the good thing about getting criticism is that it sometimes helps me with writers block.

Why I am still a Raza Unida Voter

In the fall of 2007 I began encouraging Albuquerque Raza Unida gente to begin trying to increase Raza Unida voter registration. Recently, Xenaro Ayala of Partido Nacional La Raza Unida asked me to explain why I was promoting Albuquerque Raza Unida after having taken some time off of LRU organizing.

What I came to realize is health and democracy are both key values for me. Then came the exciting realization that they are related. This was more than a vague idea that I’ve had for a long time. There was research that showed that societies with strong social equality lived longer and healthier lives. And when I realized the role that Raza Unida could play in that I became inspired.

As a public health worker I have always looked for ways to deal with social inequality and poverty, which have the greatest impacts on preventable disease and death. Like most people I initially thought about things like Universal Health Care. As I did more research I came to realize that virtually all other industrialized countries had Universal Health Care in some form or another for a long time.

Looking deeper into the subject I began to become clearer and clearer that social justice policies such as full employment, living wages, and universal programs had a larger impact on health than individual behaviors and programmatic services. The fact that we often have so many people on the Dia de Los Muertos altars became more than the semi-vague notion of oppression, it became crystal clear in policies and practices.

I also came to realize by reading writings of Vicente Navarro (especially “What is a National Health Policy”) that one of the questions not asked by US public health workers in looking at healthy areas of the world is the type of government in place. I could see clearly that of these countries only one country has no left candidates elected to national office, the US. He points out that in looking at 30 industrialized countries that there are four general categories: Ex-fascist, Liberal, Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. Health improves as one moves from Liberal toward Social Democrat.

The research shows that our efforts toward social justice are more than fairness culturally or socially, but that within our bodies we carry justice or injustice on a cellular level. Living in a society with strong unions, and a multi-party democracy will actually make my children live longer and healthier lives! When I realized that the countries with policies like Universal Health Care, Universal Education, Pay Equity for Women, and other positive policies are also countries with strong Unions and strong Socialist and Labor parties I realized I wanted to support such a society.

Though La Raza Unida does not identify as a “left” party, the ideals are in alignment. I realized that there is a false argument that says that “voting for anyone other than a Democrat is a wasted vote.” That argument tells me that if I vote against my values I will keep a corporate sponsored party in charge to make my life less worse. I knew from experience that policy makers use previous elections to help them decide who to target for current elections.
It came to me that if there is a block of truly progressive voters who are registered outside of the corporate sponsored parties it would make politicians have to factor that in. This would require people willing to vote third party as often as makes sense. By registering LRU and voting Dem the Democrats will know they can count on LRU voters and ignore them. But if they see a pattern of progressive voting they will need to respond. What politicians respond to right now is the largest group of active voters – the so-called “center.” Both parties try to gain these votes and generally ignore their base in order to do so because they know there are people who vote D or R no matter what.

In Bernalillo County, New Mexico many elections are decided with 100 votes or less. A strong block of 100-500 Raza Unida voters in New Mexico could slow the pull to the right that has been happening with the Democrats since I’ve been able to vote. With 500 or more Raza Unida voters in Bernalillo County we could actually run someone for office.

Of course if other progressive parties began to organize then coalitions could be formed. There would be no need to try and attack the two funded parties. Just by encouraging people to vote for their values we would have an influence. If currently elected officials realize they need to win votes from progressive and radical voters and not expect them automatically they will need to check in with our values as much as they do with the “center” voters.

Is this “the” solution? Absolutely not, it has to go hand in hand with us taking every opportunity feasible to organize and take leadership. We will need to go from neighborhood associations, to PTAs, to community based social justice organizations, and of course unions and political parties.
When we become a large enough voter block we will be taken into account when policies and platforms are developed. When we choose to move beyond that we will be able to move from influence to power. This is what our future generations deserve from us.

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