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The Strength and Challenge of America

​​​By Mark Ames

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America’s elections are among our most revered traditions, serving as a beacon to the world. However, they also threaten to shatter, divide, and cut us into warring factions. This year, each side hoped for a defining, conclusive victory, but that is not what happened. While history was made in many areas, the results leave us with a feeling of uncertainty. A tension remains that yearns for a firmer declaration. 

The expression of this tension will come soon. 2019 will be a year of action, preparation, and contrast. There will not be a marketplace of ideas, but rather an arena of competition. Worker safety and health are among the contestants, vying for attention and action. Which issues are considered “problems,” how should they be solved, and which should be acted upon first in the windows of opportunity that open and close so quickly, and often with little warning? The answers to these questions will be found in our ability to establish or strengthen relationships with policymakers, and our ability to educate new and returning officials on the importance of occupational safety and health issues. Meeting and otherwise communicating with policymakers is of paramount importance because by doing so, we open up new opportunities to help protect workers. Please visit AIHA’s Government Relations Action Center to find out how to contact your state and federal elected representatives. 

The political landscape of America has been altered, and while power has shifted, it is not accurate to say that a transformation occurred. Democrats will now control the U.S. House of Representatives, while Republicans gained seats in the U.S. Senate. Although much can change in two years, in part because they did not overperform, Democratic House gains will likely be relatively easy to defend. Similarly, while more Republican senators are up for reelection in 2020 than Democrats, those Republican seats are expected to be fairly easy to defend, based upon past election results. This means that the shifts in Congressional power that begin in 2019 may be with us for several years to come, beyond the 2020 elections. 

On the state side, although Democrats made gains, winning seven governorships and six legislative chambers, Republicans held onto power in the vast majority of gubernatorial and state legislative elections. 

The aphorism that all politics is local still holds, and change is occurring throughout the nation. Democrats netted more than 280 gubernatorial, state legislative, and congressional seats. However, it’s equally useful to consider that, taken as a whole, elected officials in America are still more likely to be Republican than any other party. While this is expected to be the case for several years to come, it’s also true that the parties themselves are far from unified—and thus perhaps becoming less relevant. Factions of every type clamor for power, challenging leadership, as they seek to set the nation on a new path, drawing attention to themselves with increasingly heated rhetoric in the hopes of gaining prominence—and perhaps additional donors to fund their future campaigns. For the foreseeable future, this appears to be the stark course we are set upon. 

I often get asked how, as a nonpartisan organization, AIHA can navigate these hyper-partisan waters. The key is by providing a space for policymakers of all parties to come together for a common purpose: to protect the health and safety of their constituents, America’s workers. It is important to look beyond party affiliation, with the knowledge that policymakers’ support for or opposition to specific policies often depends more on their own experiences and who they represent than anything else. It is possible to find policymakers from all sides who are willing to take action. AIHA is strong in its nonpartisanship, which helps us to work with any and all policymakers who share our vision of a world where all workers are healthy and safe. Join us on Catalyst, where you’re invited to continue this discussion.



Mark Ames is AIHA’s director of Government Relations.

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