Thursday, October 23, 2008

Have it Your Way?

An excerpt from God's Politics by Jim Wallis, because why summarize when he already says it so well?

She was working the drive-through window at 4:00 in the afternoon. But whenever there was a lull between orders, the young woman kept returning to a table in the corner of the restaurant. Three kids were sitting there, with schoolbooks, papers, and pencils all spread out, doing their homework. And Mom was helping as best she could while keeping straight the orders for Whoppers, fries, and chicken nuggets. Given her low wages, this single mother was no doubt balancing more than fast food and homework - but also deciding between paying the rent, going to the doctor and affording prescriptions when somebody gets sick, or buying winter boots for her kids. She has become an icon for me. I call her Burger King Mom.

In election years, the pundits talk often about Soccer Mom and how she will vote. Both the Democrats and the Republicans court her. Since the president went to Daytona, there is a new electoral icon; he's called NASCAR Dad, and his support is crucial, especially for Republicans. Also, in the 2004 election, attention focused on Security Mom. But who will speak to or for Burger King Mom? She exists in both the red and blue states, but neither party is much interested in her or her family's issues. She is part of the low-income demographic that is most unrepresented in American politics, with the lowest levels of both voter registration and turnout, and includes a high percentage of immigrants. Many low-income people have a hard time connecting to voting: too complicated, too many other things to worry about, too little confidence that the outcome makes much difference for them.

The Republicans look after their wealthy constituents, and the Democrats want to be champions of the middle class, but neither prioritizes the needs of the poor.* Is that because the problems of poverty are disappearing in America? On the contrary, the poverty rate (including for children) has risen over the last three years, more people than ever are without health insurance, increasing numbers of people can't find affordable housing, and the minimum wage hasn't been raised for eight years.

*-Emphasis mine.

No comments: