Stepping Up

I never would have thought I would be raising my hand in a room full of political activists and saying, yes, I would like to run for office. But here I was, the only one raising their hand.

A week ago I attended a meeting of a local chapter of Pant Suit Nation, who were deciding that they wanted to do more than tell their stories.  I had not even heard of Pant Suit Nation till after the General Election, probably because I was a Bernie supporter and I had been inactive politically since the primary ended and my favored candidate had lost the nomination.

Back in February, I had joined a local Bernie 2016 group to canvass and call our neighbors. That was the highlight of my year, feeling like I could make a difference. I was thrilled to meet kindred spirits who shared my passion for Bernie’s ideas. I had read everything I could about his positions on issues and when I knocked on the door or made phone calls, I felt prepared and more confident than I had ever been discussing politics.

From as far back as I can remember, I have always disliked politics. I saw it as something others with bigger egos and more polished personalities, those natural born leaders, got involved with. Perhaps I felt helpless, that no one listened to me or the average person anyway, so why bother. Perhaps, it was the lack of a major candidate whose ideas sparked my desire to get involved.

On occasion, I did actually make an effort to support a candidate. The first time I did this was in the 2000 primary, I was enamored by Bill Bradley, and both my boyfriend and I were eager to join a student run group to help him. Then, before we even got started, he dropped out of the primary. After that we were behind Gore, but not with the passion needed to get out the vote for him. The next 8 years were depressing and I felt alienated from the whole political process.

But then, in  2008, a turning point, the democratic party nominated an incredibly dynamic eloquent person to run for president (I had voted for Clinton in the primary, but was perfectly content that Obama won). Obama’s campaign encouraged grassroots support and people like me started changing their perception of politics. I considered going out to canvass door to door, but with a newborn baby, it was easier for me to make calls to voters. A new innovative technological tool, the dialer, allowed me to make the calls from home, while tracking responses on my computer. I actually hate making phone calls, but I plugged away trying to do my part.

After the 2016 primary, I was deflated, done with organizing, engaging in politics. I knew Bernie was right, that we had to support Clinton, she was the far better choice, but I had lost my enthusiasm for political involvement. I felt talked down to by the democratic party elite, I considered dem-exiting. In a sense, I did. I live in a very blue state, so I had no problem voting for a third party candidate for the first time in my life. With resignation, that my vote would make no difference, I gave it to Jill Stein. Part of me yearned to vote for the first woman president of the United States, but I wanted to vote my conscience, and Clinton was expected to win overwhelmingly, anyway.

I went through a lot of mixed emotions in the days following Nov. 8, 2016. First, I felt this smug, self-righteous, I told you so, to those who had argued that Clinton was more electable. I was shocked that she lost, but not actually surprised. The last couple of months had reminded me of 2000, and I kept feeling that Clinton was going to be another Gore, but given the polls, I assumed I was wrong.

Soon my smugness became anger, how could people have not seen the writing on the wall! I also resented those saying that Bernie was in part to blame for the loss and it bothered me that democrats were so quick to demonize people who either voted for Trump or sat out the election. I looked around myself at my more conservative neighbors and could see why they had not turned out to support a democratic candidate, despite the horrific choice. Most had no enthusiasm for either candidate, and probably felt like I had for so long, helpless, hopeless, nothing I did would make a difference.

My anger turned to despair when I started seeing the bigotry of some Trump supporters coming out of the wood work and the president-elect starting to make terrible cabinet appointments. The people who were empowered were intent on destroying everything I believed in.

Fortunately, it was around that time, that someone kindly added me to the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group. Seeing for the first time a group of several million ordinary people expressing similar fears and concerns, has inspired hope in me. I see these women and men who are organizing local grassroots advocacy groups and am filled again with a desire to take action. Bernie has regained his voice, and continues to remind us that when millions of people stand together, we can not be ignored. I wasn’t an adamant Clinton supporter, but she was right: we are stronger together.

I went to my first meeting of the local pantsuit nation chapter, and instead of being the shy, non-committal person I often am, I jumped into the conversation. I became the official note-taker that evening, then still feeling insecure about my abilities,  I offered my help working on their website and signed up to organize the list of trackers of our elected officials. I wanted to join every committee, but there were plenty of others stepping up, so I just chose a few.

Finally, the organizer of the event brought up the possibility of our group supporting one of us to run for political office. Who here would consider running for office? She asked. I thought about Bernie, saying that we each can make a difference, that the only way to have progressive values is to have progressives run for local school boards and state legislators. If we don’t want our country to be run by elitists, we need to work our way into the system from the bottom up. I may not be a natural born politician, but I am one of millions who feel passionately, who know that it takes a village, each of us standing up to do our part, to right the wrongs and pave the way for justice.

I looked around the room of 30 or so women and one man, mostly older than I. No one had answered the question, would someone step up? Then I timidly raised my hand. I can do this, I thought. Yes, I think I can.

Congratulations: Another Political Rant on the Eve of Election

****Disclaimer: This essay was written before the author knew the outcome of the election. I apologize to my readers for incorrectly relying on the media’s pronouncements that Clinton had locked up the election. However, it is my feeling that the points made in this essay are still relevant, despite the unexpected turn of events.

Congratulations Trump Haters, er, I mean Hillary supporters. You got what you wanted, you defeated the greater of two evils. Your queen is anointed. Now I can tell you what has been bugging me about your unwavering support for someone who was so driven by her own ego, that only she could be the first female US president, that she hijacked the entire DNC hierarchy to make sure she had no possible rival.

Ever wonder why no other female politician, and there are now plenty of rising stars, chose to run against her?

Clinton knew no one pays attention during primaries. So if she ran an OK primary campaign, her name recognition alone would carry her, as long as no other dynamic, charismatic rising star challenged her. So she set the stage years in advance to drive the competition away before they could be competition.

Warren, yes, she should have run, Gillebrande, perhaps. What about about the dearth of minority candidates running in the DNC primary? Didn’t that stick out like a sore thumb?

Now if the primary fight had been fair and inclusive, I would be content. But you are telling me that I had to vote for the lesser of two evils, and there was never much of a choice to begin with.

I’m like you, I usually don’t research primary candidates as well as I should and when I got involved in past campaigns it was mostly during the general election (okay, I had a very brief stint in support of Bill Bradley before he dropped out). In fact, I voted Hillary in the 2008 primaries without a second thought, but I was content to accept Obama’s nomination.

This year was different. I spent tens of hours knocking on doors, making calls from South Carolina to Guam, and I donated almost the maximum in allowable contributions before a primary nominee had been chosen, or so I thought.

I got involved in the earliest stages of the campaign, before the first primary debate, on Rosh Hashanah eve, actually. I heard a candidate speak with full honesty and conviction to the heart of what I believe. I had never heard a politician sound like this, no pat cliches and slogans, but real honest to goodness truth. So I believed, before a single vote was cast that I could make a difference, I could convince my fellow democrats that we had the real progressive champion of a lifetime, the one we’d always dreamed of.

This is why I voted democrat for 25 years, since my first presidential election in 1992, the year I cheered on the 1st Clinton run for president. Watching my team win against the evil Republicans was elating. And I knew or thought I knew what democrats stood for, progress, enlightenment, justice.

But this year, this rigged election, the wool was pulled from my eyes, as the Democratic machine destroyed the man I thought embodied democratic ideals. They claimed he wasn’t a true democrat, but he was truer to democratic ideals than anyone I had ever encountered.

Now if you think idealism doesn’t count for anything and you have to accept reality, well why is it realistic to run an extremely disliked woman for the presidency, but not to pass legislation that most Americans agree we should have. More than 60% believe we should have universal healthcare (not universal coverage, which is often not enough to avoid preventable deaths, thanks to high deductibles and other insurance tactics that keep actual healthcare out of reach). The Affordable Care Act fell short of avoiding these preventable deaths thanks to a lowering of our expectations and realism. Yet, with idealism and being true to our values, when we had the majority in both houses, we could have finally had what every other developed country has–universal healthcare.

Democrats squandered this and several other opportunities, such as true reform of the banks and the reversal of deregulation that caused the great recession. We were realistic, and so milquetoast, did small incremental steps, that have slowly nudged us out of recession. Yet we are still in danger, on this eve of a second democratic presidency, of falling back into recession. No one is breathing a sigh of relief yet. We know we are in another bubble. We don’t know if our loans will suddenly go underwater. And millions of young millennials, are especially vulnerable, with the current outrageous costs for college tuition, forced into high interest student loans for a worthless degree, when no one is hiring or paying a decent wage, and no means to foreclose or declare bankruptcy. They have no assets and so they are imprisoned in debt and high interest rates, forever. But the banks we know from experience, will be bailed out.

Tomorrow, you get to gloat about your win, but this was never a fair fight and you had the audacity to shame those who researched and found your candidate lacking. We know the DNC colluded to make sure we never had a choice, that no other candidate but she could be. But we must still accept, water under the bridge. And our candidate was never a true democrat. He didn’t deserve to run let alone be given a fair chance. You know the debates were rigged, right? Limited numbers, odd times, when few people were watching, and debate questions leaked to only one campaign. The media also avoided mention of any other candidate unless to hurl criticism, so the one with name recognition wouldn’t lose her advantage. But our primary defeat, we must accept and swallow. And he was not a true democrat, so should have run independent, not in our party, you say, don’t meddle in our private affairs.

But today, you say, don’t vote third party, don’t vote independent, for you it is a choice between D and R and no in between. So our independent voices, and independent, not affiliated, is larger now than both R and D combined, our independent voices need to be silenced, only choose R or D.

So our third parties, our independence, is marginalized, and our candidate must fight within the system that is rigged against it. Because it is not an inclusive club, even if you are a card carrying Dem for 25 years. No you don’t have a say, you rank and file, and if you don’t like it, you can leave. But don’t you dare vote outside the party, no, then you are supporting evil, there is nothing in between.

We have a two-headed monster and only voices of the powerful and connected are heard. The rest of us will be led or pushed with false promises and real threats to accept the no choice as queen.