Elections 2012: This time, it’s personal


Among all the polemics and slogans and zingers and gaffes, all the endless T.V. ads and billboards and Facebook rants and bumper stickers, all the editorials and blogs and speeches, the election, ultimately, is about what is going to happen to individuals who are affected by the laws that our leaders make for us.

I was reminded of this last week when I had a chance to interview Peggy Flanagan, an activist and organizer, former school board member who works with Wellstone Action and who also is working on the Minnesota United for All Families campaign. I met with her to hear the story of her mother, a woman who has had to deal with some pretty traumatic health issues, who after a lifetime of caring for others now faces numerous longterm health issues and is dependent on Social Security and Medicare (read the story here).  Peggy is fearful of what would happen under a Romney administration — the possibility of Social Security and Medicare being turned into a some kind of voucher system is a very real threat to her mom’s life and care. She told me was that she wished politicians would talk about how policies like health care reform actually affect real people. 

And she’s right. All elections, and this election in particular, are personal. As a woman, it’s personal, that I will continue to be free to make decisions about my own body without the government interfering, and as an auntie of four nieces, who hopes they also will not be forced to live in some Handmaid’s Tale dystopia where women are seen merely as vessels for procreation. I want them to grow up in a world that respects them and supports them.

As a friend to many in the LGBT and queer community, this election is personal for me. I don’t want them to be discriminated against, and while voting no on the marriage amendment will not make gay marriage legal, I do hope that one day soon it will be a possibility for them.

As a friend to many people who are my age and some who are even older who don’t currently have health insurance, I pray (and I’m not even Catholic anymore) that Obamacare will go into full effect. I know way too many people who don’t go to the doctor when they are sick, who won’t go to the emergency room even if they’ve broken their foot, because they can’t afford it. This isn’t the country I want to live in. We need to look out for each other, and make sure that everyone gets the health care they need.

And finally, voting rights are very personal to me. As someone who is slightly more together now than I was as a young person, who has moved often and not always had my drivers license up to date, I know that if Voter I.D. were in effect over the course of my life, there probably would have been several past elections where I would not have been able to vote. And I know for some people — the elderly, the poor, people living in rural communities — Voter I.D. will be a way for them to be discriminated against.

So yes, Peggy Flanagan is right. It is personal. It’s incredibly personal. I just hope that as Americans go to the polls, they think about that, about how these issues aren’t just about policy or abstract ideas. They are about real people’s lives.