Like US citizens of every background, come November, Americans of Polish descent will be faced by a major decision. Some have already decided whom to vote for, others are still weighing their options and still others don’t plan to cast their ballot. “Politicians are a bunch of crooks. They’ll promise you the moon and then steal you blind once they get into office!” That is the way the non-voters often justify their absence.
That began changing during the violent 1960s and ‘70s which were marked by assassinations, the emerging drug culture and anti-war protests which were seen by many as simply anti-American. In the 1968 presidential race, Republican Richard Nixon Democrat Hubert Humphrey by only a narrow margin, But by 1972 the Democratic Party was being increasingly associated with radical celebrities (such as pro-Vietnamese Jane Fonda), flag-burners, pro-abortionists and violent fringe groups such as the Black Panthers, Black Muslims and Weathermen.
Had Polish-American Edmund Muskie (Marciszewski) secured his party’s nomination, that would have undoubtedly helped keep many Polonian voters in the Democratic fold. But the choice of leftist George McGovern turned off a great many Polish Americans who cast their backlash vote for Nixon. Polonia’s pro-Republican stance became more firmly grounded during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr, both of whom were seen as aiding the cause of Poland’s independence.
But now it is 2008, and Blacks, Jews, Latinos, trade-unionists and most Hollywood types have by and large remained Democratic sympathizers. With Polish Americans and voters with other East, Central and Southern European roots, political loyalties are more diversified. Some say that most Polish Americans have made the transition into the middle class and do not perceive themselves as a separate electorate with specific needs. The fact remains, however, that groups with a political agenda that pressure candidates over their issues and concerns are the ones that get listened and catered to by the political establishment.
Issues of potential interest to Polish-American voters might include the following:
- Immigration-law reform enabling Polish immigrants to obtain legal status – permanent residence or US citizenship;
- Ensuring more Federal Government appointments, including cabinet posts, for Polish Americans;
- Vigorous prosecution of anti-Polonism through the creation of a special Polish anti-defamation unit at the US State Department similar to that which now monitors anti-Semitism;
- More student, academic and cultural exchange programs with Poland;
- Increased US military aid for Poland in exchange for its agreement to host parts of the anti-missile shield on Polish territory.
- Increasing business opportunities for Polish companies in the United States;
- Making good on the F-16 offset program, whereby the US pledged to promote investments in Poland in exchange for Poland’s purchase of F-16 jet fighter planes;
- Inclusion of Poland in the visa-waiver program, enabling Poles to visit the US without having to apply for an American visa; the US is now the only NATO country that still discriminates Poles in this way.
Polish-American voters still have time to make up their minds whom to vote for. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both expected to conduct a leftist liberal policy, favored by the pro-homosexual and abortion-rights lobbies and are competing as to which of them will end America’s military involvement in Iraq sooner. Conservative John McCain, 70, is more likely to provide military aid to Poland and carry out immigration reform, but a major strike against him is his age.