Recently, Chris Rock made a good point when he said that, for the past 30 years, Sen. Mitch McConnell has represented the state of Kentucky, and he’s one of the nation’s most powerful and richest senators. It’s great to be rich, but Chris and I question how this power and wealth translate into actions which benefit his constituents. Theoretically, he could give some assistance with a portion of his personal wealth and provide even greater assistance with his legislative sway. Yet, a majority of Kentuckians live below the poverty level.
When I tried to learn what McConnell does to help the poor and marginalized, a more surprising fact emerged. Prior to 2008, McConnell was well below the average of U.S. senators in terms of wealth. My current research tells me that he now has accumulated at least $22.8 million of personal wealth. Inquiring minds want to know, “How did he become the wealthiest less than 10 years later?” This is a question that not only Kentuckians, but all voters need to ask legislators supposedly elected to represent their interests. I think that few voters have a problem with wealth so long as it is earned honestly and without compromising voter well-being.
With so many speakers, during the past week, speaking about the challenges of keeping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive, I thought it a good idea to suggest that we examine the backgrounds and voting records of all of our representatives who, while in office, mysteriously gain unusual wealth – even as they vote against the best interests of the poor and marginalized people they have sworn to represent. One does not have to be wealthy to stand against such malfeasance or make her/his vote count.
Let us ponder a bit:
What if we joined with other marginalized people to vote for legislators who truly represent our interests or to vote out those who don’t? The groundwork has been laid. Significant numbers of voters are already working on gun control, joblessness and poverty, a clean and healthy environment, DACA students who deserve to have a pathway to citizenship, and others who want their reasonable efforts to mean something that would make life in this nation better for all of us. All we now need is the will to coalesce.
What if more White women voted in their best interest instead of their biases, as they did in the 2016 election? That means supporting the Equal Rights Amendment. It means voting for social justice, fair housing and fair voting rights. What if, between now and the 2018 elections and 2020, we opened honest discourse about the interests we have in common and realistic measures to achieve them?
In a nation as prosperous as ours, instead of the Dow Jones, shouldn’t our concern be directed toward three meals a day and a warm place to sleep for all of our citizens? After we have met the basic survival needs of the masses, we can begin to tackle the issues that we accuse of dividing us. Only together can we solve challenges like racism, inequality, sexism and social injustice. We must learn that progress and positive change is not an all-or-nothing, win-or-lose proposition. My guess is that with a full stomach, a little money in the bank and the door of opportunity swinging open, many of our more pressing conflicts will seem less important.
The real challenge we must overcome is the disease of poverty and lack. Our nation is bleeding for a leader to step forward to say, “Send me, Lord; I’ll go.” Maybe the “Poor People’s Campaign” led by Bishop William Barber is the right vehicle. Let’s give it a try.
Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women (www.nationalcongressbw.org).