When former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president, Romney campaign chair John Sununu dismissed it as just a black man standing up for one of his tribe.
That racial gibe fits a campaign with a yawning racial divide: Obama is struggling among white working-class men, while Romney has essentially abandoned any effort to win the votes of African Americans and Latinos.
Someone should talk to the skilled, largely white, workers at Sensata Technologies Inc. about that. They work for a hugely profitable company owned by Romney’s Bain Capital. Bain is moving the jobs to China.
When these workers called on Romney for help, they got no answer. When they looked for an ally, I joined them, stood with them and was arrested with them protesting the plant closure. We were united in the cause, not divided by the color of our skin.
That is what is so troubling about this election. Voters are faced with a clear choice. Romney is a wealthy man — a plutocrat — who champions a plutocrat’s agenda. He would cut taxes on the wealthy and eliminate taxes on profits multinationals report abroad (giving Bain and others million-dollar incentives to move more jobs or report profits overseas).
He wants to savage Medicaid and repeal Obamacare, costing 34 million people health-care coverage. He would slash spending on education, child nutrition, veterans programs and more. He promises to repeal the reforms made to limit Wall Street’s excesses.
Obama is neither the socialist that the right denounces nor the populist that many on the left had hoped for. His sensible agenda calls for bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and using the savings to rebuild America. He asks the wealthy to pay higher taxes to help pay down the debt and make the investments vital to the economy in education, research and infrastructure. He supports limiting Wall Street gambling and protecting consumers from financial predators. He proposes a minimum tax on multinationals, part of a coherent effort to revive manufacturing here in America.
Sensata workers understand this isn’t about race; it is about which side you are on. They know that when Bain closes the plant and shuts off the lights, we all look the same in the dark.
Obama’s re-election is burdened by the lousy economy. But here Romney and his allies have been disingenuous. They want voters to forget that Romney supports the same policies that drove the economy off the cliff. They skip over the fact that Obama inherited an economy in free-fall, a financial system verging on collapse, a housing bubble bursting and two wars fought on a credit card.
Obama’s recovery program stopped the free-fall. He ended the war in Iraq. He saved the auto industry. He saved billions in bank ripoffs in the student loan program and put the money into Pell Grants for deserving students. In the midst of a national crisis, he faced unprecedented and unrelenting Republican obstruction. And despite this, America has done better on his watch than any other industrial country in coming out of the calamity.
This marks the 10th time I have endorsed Barack Obama for election. Like many, I have my own list of wouldas, shouldas and couldas. But I have never regretted my endorsements.
Barack Obama has put up with ugly personal insults and slurs, without taking the bait. He has served us with intelligence, judgment and dignity. He understands that America grows from the middle out, not from the top down. He knows that the poor, most of whom toil in high-risk, often-menial jobs without workplace safety, need a rope of hope — public transportation, public education, Medicaid and Medicare.
As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, the poor deserve a floor beneath which no one falls.
That is the moral burden America can afford and must honor. Our character must depend upon this contract. President Obama understands this. He has earned our trust. And he has earned our vote.