“We May Be Divided, But We All Want the Same”
My life is not dictated by the seasons. By summer heat, winter cold, the crisp uncertainties of fall. Instead, my life is a cycle of campaigns. Election season is always my new year.
For six years now, I’ve worked on one campaign after another. I worked in the Midwest as a labor organizer, from the city streets of Cleveland to the hollers of Appalachia. I worked in the South as a community organizer. I worked in the North in politics. Always, my life has been dictated by the rhythms of campaign life, by the deadlines, the swings in mood, shifts in emotion, long hours, lots of stress, little sleep, and always talking, talking, talking, trying to persuade voters to see things my way.
Obviously, I have strongly held political beliefs. But what I believe most strongly, after thousands and thousands of conversations, is that underneath the factionalism of the two opposing political parties, the issues like gun control and abortion that seek to divide us, the American people want, essentially, the same things.
We want good jobs so we can support our families. We want clean air to breathe and safe food to eat. We want our children to be safe and educated and happy. We want to make sure our families can get help when they get sick. We want to know we can retire when we are too old to work.
During the election of 2004, I was based in the epicenter of electoral politics. I worked in the panhandle of West Virginia with Ohio and Pennsylvania just a few miles away on either side. I was working with a group of nurses trying to negotiate their first union contract with their hospital.
The fierce, partisan political battles raged over the national landscape and all around us. In the valley, fierce union Democrats and devout Catholic Republicans were equal in number. Sitting around the bargaining table, there were always equal numbers of Democratic and Republican nurses.
But we were united. We were united around the common, bread-and-butter issues that matter most. Better pay. Affordable health insurance. Safe staffing. More respect.
Because at the end of the day, it didn’t matter who voted for Kerry or Bush. What mattered most to the nurses was whether or not they could take better care of their patients and their own families. They all wanted the same thing, and they wanted it more than anything.
Right now, the leaves are turning again. It’s election season, and again I’m hard at work. But as I work, I believe most strongly of all, not in the differences between Americans, but in our similarities. We may be divided, but we all want the same.
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