Northwest Indiana: Fighting the right with people power!

Republicans are expecting a typical midterm election year where the disenfranchised and oppressed (youth, women, organized labor, Latinos and African Americans) stay home. In the 2010 midterms, approximately 40 percent of registered voters cast ballots. As a result of such a low turnout, right-wing extremists and corporate puppets swept national and state elections. Little time was wasted in passing legislation that gerrymandered districts, weakened collective bargaining, and restricted voting access to millions of workers, students, elderly and the poor.

USW (United Steelworkers) International Vice President Fred Redmond, in an interview with progressive talk show host Leslie Marshall, discussed the catastrophic effects of Republican control in the House and in state legislatures and governorships. Redmond stated that 22 states enacted regressive measures making it harder to vote, and dozens have slashed their states’ social safety nets, launched attacks on organized labor, cut money from public education, and advanced corporate interests at the expense of the working class.

How do we turn this around? We need to knock on doors, make phone calls, and explain what is at stake. We have to educate and organize our families, friends, and neighbors so they understand the danger of the Right.

Voter apathy is the greatest hindrance to People Power. Part of voter apathy is the disgust with the Democratic Party’s shift towards the right, “Republican Lite.” However, there is an intriguing struggle emerging over the past several years between party leadership and progressives. There is a strong movement opposed to the DP selling its soul to “corporate America” and legislating Wall Street-friendly financial reforms. People are angry when some in the party mainstream abandon organized labor. They are livid with the privatization of public education through charters and vouchers and aghast when some Dems show even a willingness to compromise Democratic flagship programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.

These anti-democratic actions negatively affect the lives of the working class directly, particularly in the industrial heart of the United States, Northwest Indiana. The “Region,” as it is known to residents, continues to be devastated by corporate greed and its Republican allies in state government. Indiana continues to be a flashpoint of Republican attacks against the working class, women, civil rights, and children. Why? They value profits over people.

The critical issue facing the working class is to fight the danger of the right. Coalitions are built and alliances made with organizations and public servants who champion people and nature over profits, such as progressive Democrats Shelli VanDenburgh, Ind. House District 19; Roxana Hanford, Ind. Senate District 6; and Pete Visclosky, U.S. House District 1.

One progressive candidate drawing particular attention is State Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh. She is a lifelong resident of Ind. House District 19, which includes Crown Point, Hobart, Winfield, and Lakes of the Four Seasons. Her career is centered in public service. In 2007 she was appointed to fill a vacancy for District 19 as State Representative, and has since been re-elected with overwhelming voter approval three times.

VanDenburgh is rooted in local, state, and national causes that advocate for children, public education, and unions. She has vigorously promoted marriage equality, pay equity for women, a woman’s right to choose, progressive financial aid reforms for college students, and fought Right to Work legislation that defunds and strips unions of collective bargaining power. In short, she is a frontline fighter of the Right and a rising progressive leader in Indiana government, representing working class families.

Photo: Shelli VanDenburgh talks with construction workers. Shelli VanDenburgh official Facebook page