By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
With the Midterm elections just two weeks away, politicians representing the two major parties are working to drive people to the polls to support their messages on the issues.
Early voting is underway in Virginia, and candidates are hoping their campaign messages will help voters decide to support their stand on them.
Abortion rights, the cost of living, the threat to democracy, education, student loan debt, and civil rights are issues voters say are on their playlists as the election nears.
Nationally the Republican party is spurring voter energy from its base mainly by raising voter concerns and fear of rising gas prices and crime.
The party could then bind the hands of President Joe R. Biden’s progressive agenda and policies on voting, abortion rights, student loan forgiveness, and other progressive policies helping the poor and people of color.
Democrats are hoping to fight off the Republican charge, but the recent rise in gas prices and crime, notably in the urban areas are complicating their efforts.
Recently the GUIDE reached out to a number of Black voters to determine what issues are motivating them to vote this fall.
Their backgrounds vary and so do their lists on issues motivating them to vote early on November 8.
But one common theme rang true: fear of the erosion of democracy via the reclamation of the GOP control of the levers of the state and national political power.
“Two years after the death of George Floyd, I am concerned Black men being treated as criminals and the Republican party weakening our voting rights,” said Diane Creekmore, an advocate for people with
Sickle Cell Disease in Hampton Roads. “I am also concerned about criminalizing a women’s right to choose.”
“It’s a concern for some people, but, I am not worried about inflation,” she said. “Poor Black people have known how to stretch our dollars for years. I am more concerned about healthcare and poor people having access to it.”
Thomas McKenzie, 49, is a debt collection agent for a national bank.
His main concern is candidates supported by Donald Trump winning congressional and local offices.
He said right-wing Republican candidates have dived into a pool of election denial and conspiracy theories, which they believe as truthful gospel.
“I am concerned about people not willing to accept the outcome of fair elections, as they did in 2020 gaining power,” he said. “Our democratic principles are being threatened and a lot of people do not realize it.”
“I am concerned about voting rights being curbed, especially as a Black man,” he said. “Also, what if a woman is pregnant and it is not viable? What if she cannot afford to have a child or was raped? How
many women are raped and then abuse the child because the child is a daily reminder of the trauma they experienced.”
“Are we going to force women to take on those burdens along with caring for their families and working,” he said. “Republicans don’t seem to care about the consequences of their policies. All they care about is power and preserving their hold on it.”
Elbert Watson, now retired, was a Housing Placement Specialist for NRHA. He has voted early, as many others. He said he fears Republican operatives are already flirting with voter suppression by recruiting poll watchers. He said they are not there to guard against election fraud but to intimidate voters.
“I think we have to be more ‘woke’ these days. All of the civil and voting rights we fought for and secured just 50 years ago are threatened,” said Watson. “I fear many people will not vote because they think their vote won’t count. This may allow the conservative elements of the Republican party to gain power and achieve its goals of voter and civil rights oppression.
Watson said inflation “is not a concern for me and a lot of other people. Black people have a tradition of insulating ourselves economically and stretching our dollars and food, but still helping our neighbors.”
Phillip Koenig, 52, is white, and an Emergency Roadside Assistance Technician.
He said he worries about the rise of White Christian Nationalism and the threat it poses to democracy and the rights of Americans.
He, too, fears the large number of Republican candidates running on the “big lie” promoted by Donald Trump that he won the 2020 Presidential race.
“I am voting to make sure they do not secure power,” he said. “They are not educated; they don’t care about democracy or freedom. People like Marjorie Taylor Greene are fanatics and in control of that party. This is scary. If you are not scared, you are not paying attention.”
Danielle Braden, 35, is the Director of Civic Engagement for the Urban League of South Hampton Roads.
She said she has also encountered the lack of civic education because while out registering people to vote “many of them do not know what to do or the process of being involved in the system.”
She said she is worried about abusive police and the continued high rates of mass incarceration of Black men.
“Do you realize there are over two million African Americans in jail,” she said, “and most of them are Black men, who are being treated like animals in these state prisons. And when they come out so many do not have the basic right to vote because they are felons.”
Braden said that she is worried about the high number of deaths among Black women bearing children, as well as the right for them to choose to have a child taken away.
Living in Suffolk, Lance Inman, 23, graduated from college last spring and landed a well-paying job as an engineer with a local construction company.
He drives an electric vehicle and was taught by his parents to be thrifty with his money.
He and his partner William, a 25-year-old public-school teacher, after two years of vetting each other as to what they have in common, agree it’s time for them to commit and marry.
“Inflation is not an issue for us now,” he said. “But we are concerned as young Black Gay men about the rights of other LGBT men and women. We can see the impact of the conservative Republican agenda with the recent Supreme Court decisions on abortion.”
“If they can take that right away, they can end marriage equality, weaken voting rights and our access to healthcare,” he said. “My grandmother marched and fought a half-century ago for these rights I enjoy.” he said. “If that is not enough to get me and people my age to the polls, I don’t know what can.”
Chesapeake resident George Reed, a retired educator, and community activist, said he is focused on local issues.
“Getting people out to vote, this is key,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to protect policies and rights we have been fighting for over a half-century. So, we need to support people (running for Chesapeake) City Council and school board who have a progressive agenda.”
“We have to get out and vote to ensure and protect democracy,” he said. “Conservative elements of the Republican party want to take control of the House and Senate. They don’t support anything which will benefit poor and working-class Americans.”
Local issues are of concern for another retired educator, Inez Mason.
“I believe we should take care of home…locally first,” she said. “So, I am worried about the destruction of public …affordable housing for the poor in Norfolk. I am also worried about crime. It is out of hand all over this city. Our political leaders must seriously look at the cause and how we can curb it.”