I was reading By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans prefer Obamacare to Republican replacements in The Washington Post today with great interest. At first, I found the article encouraging since it validated what I already felt: that the new “healthcare” bill proposed by the GOP is wildly unpopular so it must be doomed to fail. But as I read on, I had a shocking epiphany that should give anyone opposed to repeal/replacement of the Affordable Care Act concern.
There have been many people asking “Why is Mitch McConnell continuing to pursue passing this bill that is so “wildly” unpopular?” “How could they dare pass it?”
I took a close look closely at the charts and the statistics. Though the GOP bill is not exceedingly popular among republicans, they do still prefer their bill to existing ACA (“Obamacare”) by 59%. I guess it’s not really surprising. Fifty-nine percent is not overwhelming popularity, but it is still a majority of the party.
So, ask yourself again, why is Mitch McConnell so willing to go to the mat over this horrible bill? Why don’t they care that the majority of the country doesn’t want this change? Answer: The majority of what they see as their electorate still does.
Due to the GOP’s strong win in 2010, in many states they won control of the redistricting process which allowed them, through gerrymandering the voting districts, to ensure they dilute any votes against the GOP. This means in a lot of key states, they know their seats are safe as long as they keep the republicans in their district happy.
Gerrymandering allows the broadly unpopular to still win elections and pass bills. There has been increasing conversation about the need for Democrats to increase their efforts to fight for state seats to control the state legislatures before the next census and redistricting effort. There are some lawsuits pending and this is even the cause that Barack Obama has aligned himself with as his number one post-presidency issue.
John Oliver did a great episode on Gerrymandering: Gerrymandering: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) – YouTube
There’s other opinions on whether gerrymandering is really that important in this. Politico wrote an article in 2015 Gerrymandering Isn’t Evil Why independent redistricting won’t save us from political gridlock. which attempts to debunk what they called the myths of gerrymandering. They mention studies that have shown that the wasted votes (those votes that were for the losing candidate). I’d be very interested to see how the wasted votes in each state’s districts impacted the 2016 election results (at all levels, not just presidential contest). Their concluding point is that there is not a clear consensus on what would be considered a “good” district?
There is no universal set of rules or methods for defining the state voting districts. The US Constitution doesn’t even mention “districts”, but does connect the number of Representative each state gets in the House to the census which must be updated every 10 years. Except for some limited federal statutes, how this is done has been delegated to the states. Some, but not all, state constitutions require that districts should be “compact”. An interesting PRI story explained how one mathematician is working to help courts determine the compactness of a particular district. At the very least we should have non-partisan commissions defining the districts, but many states allow the majority party to own those decisions.
The health care bill is a potent example of why it’s important for our democracy that our voting districts NOT be defined along partisan lines. I don’t want to see democratic friendly districts either, BTW. To heal the divide in this country, We need to work to redraw those lines to FORCE our politicians to work for ALL Americans, not just those who already agree with them.
What do you think?
NOTE: the below post was written April 3, 2017. A more current post coming soon….
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. That’s not because there hasn’t been anything “keeping me up nights”, just the opposite! Every day has brought more horrible policy from the Trump White House through Executive Orders, Cabinet nominees, Tweets, and legislative moves in Congress.
On February 11th, I participated in a local Our Bodies, Our Justice – Reproductive Justice for All rally at City Hall in downtown Springfield, MA. It was a very different experience than the Women’s March in Washington, but in a strange way was even more empowering. This was local grassroots action focussed on what’s happening here in my state.
I have to admit to finally becoming overwhelmed.
I first heard about the Women’s March around Thanksgiving and decided I was going to go, whatever it took. I wasn’t going to allow fear or shyness keep me away. I signed up for a bus to the march on Dec 12. I spent the next weeks following the Massachusetts Chapter organizing Facebook, monitoring the National page and Twitter feeds.
I’d framed my Facebook image, I thought about and posted the reasons #WhyIMarch.
I attended the kick-off meeting in Arlington the Saturday before the march. I met some wonderful
women at a sign-making event at Bay Path College on the Sunday before the march.
I had my spare batteries, my clear backpack, my snacks, my marching shoes, and I was pumped, and ready to go!
The bus got a late start from Springfield and with the traffic arrived about 2 hours later than planned in DC. Since I was traveling alone, I was on the lookout for someone to buddy up with for the day. With a brush of fate, two young women came up to me as we were getting off the bus and introduced themselves as Victoria and Constance and asked to exchange phone numbers. We then realized we didn’t have the number of the bus captain and she’d already headed off. Luckily, we caught another woman from our bus who we knew had gotten her number, and
were able to get both the bus captain’s name and number and hers. I asked Victoria if I could tag along with them to the march and they readily agreed. Since Constance had forgotten her metro pass, and we were running late and there seemed to be a pretty big crowd, we decided we’d walk rather than deal with the lines and expected delays of trying to ride the Metro at this point. As we walked we shared our backgrounds, I was amazed to find out that Victoria is PhD candidate in Film studies and German while Constance is from Berlin. Even more Victoria also studied abroad in Freiburg where I’d spend a semester my junior year. We even both took the same Linguistics class while we were there! Several years between us but that was a pretty amazing coincidence.
As we walked along, there were many people out on their porches cheering us on, thanking us for being there. It was already surreal. We turn a corner and have our first glimpse of how big this is. Far in the distance we can see the crowd.
Finally we get near the rally site. Seeing hundreds of thousands of women, men, grandmothers, and children. We hit a wall of bodies although we are still many blocks from the rally site. Against all odds, Victoria and Constance manage to connect with two of their friends who were also at the march. Thanks to some text messages, amidst hundreds of thousands of people, we somehow managed to find them in this massive crowd just outside the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. We tried to work our way together closer to Independence Ave where the march would be and the stage and rally were set up.
We couldn’t see the stage or hear the speeches, though we could hear the cheers. Occasionally some of the music would filter through. But still, we were enjoying seeing the many different signs and messages and talking with our fellow marchers. There was a group of Native Americans burning sage with message that “Water is life”. There were bras hanging symbolically from a nearby tree. There were signs with clever puns that made us laugh, there were signs that were angry and even some that were just a little bit offensive, throwing back the offensive comments we’d heard Donald Trump say.
There were messages that made me laugh in spite of myself. Just a sampling of some of the my favorites: “We are better than this”, “Bridges Not Walls”, “Civil Courage”, “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”, “Don’t Tell Me How to Dress, Teach them Not to RAPE”,
“Make America KIND Again”, “Make America THINK Again”, “Our Bodies, Our Decision”, “No More Apathy”, “Hate is Un-American”, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”, “Build Kindness”, “Love Trumps Hate”, “Liberty and Justice for All”, “I’m a Real Person, Where are Your Taxes?”, “I Pay Taxes, Do YOU?”, “Stronger Together”, “Women Fight Back”, “I Can’t BELIEVE I still have to Protest This Shit”, “LGBTQIA Equality”, “Unify and Conquer”, “Welcome to the Trumpocalypse”, “The Future is Women”, “Black Lives Matter”, “Trust Women”, “If you cut off my reproductive health, can I cut off yours?”, “Watch out Trump, my generation votes next”, “There is no Planet B”, “Trump Sandwich: 1) White bread 2) Full of baloney 3) Little pickle”. There were the props and the costumes. There was the biggest knitted ovary I’ve ever seen.
Just when I thought, hey that’s ok let’s follow it on Facebook Live, the service on our cells became non-existent. Twitter couldn’t load new Tweets, Facebook Live streams wouldn’t load. Even text messages failed to send 5 times out of ten. So had nothing that could tell us what was going on in real time. What we could see and experience was an incredible sense of solidarity, inclusivity and togetherness with every group around us. We were in community. We talked politics, we expressed our frustration and talked about what needed to happen next. It was now 1:15, the time for the march to begin but there was no movement. Chants of “let us march” began. Finally we managed to connect to see a tweet from the organizers that we could not do a formal march due to there being too many people. Someone in the crowd said that we could not follow the planned route but we should march to the white house any way we could get there. We were uncertain. Was this going to get ugly? We’d be on streets not covered by the permit. Were we risking arrest? Did we care? Were these people actually planted to instigate problems?
We looked around at the sheer numbers and the calm and peaceful spirit. We realized we needed to do this. We really were numbers too big to ignore and we decided to stick with the crowd. We took an alternate route. At one point several SUV’s full if police passed through the crowd with sirens blaring. We took a beat, was this the beginning of trouble? But no, they were just trying to get in front of this branch of the crowd so that they could clear a path us, blocking off more streets to keep us safe. The marchers would take a moment to thank the police and other folks in uniform along the route (national guard, maybe). all were smiling, shaking hands and I heard a few female soldiers thanking the marchers.
It was so crowded. You couldn’t help but bump into people. Occasionally threads of people needed to make their way across your path. But everyone would make way, apologize and smile. So many smiles even amidst the angry chants. There was no animosity between and among us, even though it was clear from the diversity of the messages on the signs, there was a broad range of the particular passion that brought us to the march. Since we were separated from the Massachusetts contingent, I was with a diverse group. Where I was, we alternated our chants. The chants ran the gamut from “Hey, ho! Donald Trump has got to go”, “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like”, “Welcome to your first day, we will not go away!”, “Black lives matter”, “Water is life”, “We won the popular vote!”, quickly morphed into “We ARE the popular vote!”.
At one point we passed by two male and one female police officers standing by their car, keeping an eye on things. One of the male officers asked us to make sure we tell the female officer happy birthday since it was her birthday. We all started joyfully singing “Happy Birthday” to her as we marched past. It was just that kind of a day.
Later on that afternoon, I heard a tiny voice behind me trying to lead a chant, shouting “Show me what democracy looks like!”. I turned around to see a young girl who couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 marching with her mother carrying her sign and totally committed to leading this chant. Of course, we all joined in with the response “this is what democracy looks like!” She kept that going for quite a while! Gave me hope for the future.
Finally reached the White house about 3:30. By then crowd was beginning to disperse but still coming from behind and still crazy numbers. At this point we were starving. We found our way to a Five Guys. The line wrapped around the restaurant which was full of marchers. Never had a burger and fries tasted so good! Plus, actually SITTING DOWN was heaven. After lingering as long as we could we decided to find a coffee shop for coffee and dessert.
All this time, I was still carrying my sign. Victoria and Constance were too, but they had been able to roll theirs up since they were smaller and on poster board. Mine was big and on foam board, so not exactly unobtrusive. We’d been seeing some signs had been discarded here and there. I was saying, I was sick of carrying it, but wanted to keep it to bring home to remember the march by. As we walked farther away from the center of the march area, we saw fewer marchers. With that sign, I felt pretty exposed but was proud to continue to carry it and wasn’t going to apologize for it. At one point we were waiting to cross a street. Looking across at the opposite sidewalk, we saw a group of about 8 people dressed in finery. Tuxedos and evening gowns. We all kind of figured they must be involved in something tied to the Inauguration. I said “I really wish I could get a picture of these two sidewalks facing each other”. Seemed so symbolic, our two groups passed each other without incident. We continued our search and found a nice place for crepes and coffee. We shared space at a table with another women who was clearly not a marcher but was just hanging out reading her book.
Me and my new friends Victoria and Constance talk of the march segued to talk of our time in Germany, then to television, films and books we enjoyed and were embarrassed to admit we liked. We found we had a lot in common far beyond our politics. At some point, the other woman joined our conversation about books. She was from Virginia Beach, in DC on business all week. Our conversation then segued back to politics. Turned out she was a true independent. She didn’t like either candidate particularly and said she honestly didn’t know which lever she’d pull until she got into the booth. We never asked which way she voted, because it really didn’t matter. We all agreed that politics is broken. She shared her frustration with Obamacare, acknowledging that ACA was great for her parents as her father had lost his job and had some serious medical issues which he was able to get covered which he likely wouldn’t have without ACA. But that it for her and her husband it was another story. They have employer sponsored health care and their plan deductibles and their cost had sky rocketed. I acknowledged ACA is flawed but reminded her that also what actually got implemented was not the designed plan. There were key aspects that were unfunded or delayed or turned over by supreme court. I shared my opinion that it’s not an easy thing to solve due to it’s complications. That we’d be better of continuing to amend and fix what’s not working rather than throwing it all away to start from scratch. I didn’t get the sense that she completely agreed with that idea, we had a civil discussion. I learned some new and meaningful nuances of the “anti Obamacare” argument and I think possibly she took away some new perspectives on that issue as well.
Around 10pm, that cafe was closing so we needed a new place to “perch” until our bus would be leaving at 1am. We found our way down to U street – we thought the perfect end to the day would be a glass of wine (beer for me) so we could celebrate and maybe have a better chance of getting some sleep on the bus. We found our way there on the metro and went into the nearest bar that looked quiet. Took seats at the bar and order our drinks. I was still dragging my poster around, and we piled our stuff on the bench near s and settled in. After sitting there decompressing for about 10 minutes, an African American man came up to us and asked if we’d been at the march and we said yes. He then said he had to share something with us. (paraphrased to the best of my memory)
Him: ”I’m 48 years old and I have a 19 year old son.”
Me: “I also have a 19 year old son”.
Him: “If anything ever happened to him like Trevon Martin, I’d kill the guy. I’m serious. I’m wouldn’t hesitate, I’m not kidding you. I’m a vet. I fought in two tours in the first Iraq war. But I look at this country and I see the stuff going on. I’ve got problems with it. Yesterday, I went down there to see what was going on. And I’ve got to tell you, what I saw down there…I wouldn’t fight for that country. I couldn’t do it. But then I went back again today…to be there with you all, to see what you’ve all done here. I would fight for that country. So…for what you’re doing, thank you. It gives me hope “.
Us: “No, thank you”
He left us and returned to his seat at down the bar. We were speechless. It was only then I looked around and realized the bar had predominately African American patrons. How unexpected was that? An African American Gulf war veteran just walked across a bar to single out three white women to effectively “thank us for our service”. I was moved to tears. I wish I’d asked his name and maybe ask to take his picture with us, but his anonymity does not diminish the power of his words. In spite of the lack of physical documentation of the encounter, I’m sure I will never forget it.
We finished our drinks, checked the time, and realized we needed to head back. We hit the metro to get across town to meet our bus. I still had that damned sign. There were three African American men waiting on the platform near us. One gentleman with dreadlocks came up to me and asked if he could take a picture with me and my sign. I said “of course” We posed for the picture. He then thanked us and shook all of our hands.
The announcements informed us we were about to catch the last train. We looked at each other and realized how lucky we were that we didn’t linger any longer at the bar!
Got to RFK stadium by 12:15AM, but we were running late, since we should be at the bus by 12:40AM. We couldn’t find the right parking lot. I called the bus captain (thank God we’d gotten her number!) to let her know we were in the vicinity but just trying to find the lot and not to leave without us. She tried to give us some landmarks to help us find the bus but then had to take another call. We figured at least we knew she knows were in the vicinity so they wouldn’t leave without us. We see a gentleman riding a bike (again an African American) we ask him lf he knows where lot 6 is. He stops, but he tells us he isn’t that familiar with the area either so he doesn’t know. But he stays with us and tries his best to help us figure out our way there. Finally Constance is able to find the Parking Lot 6 through Google maps (though neither Victoria and I had been having any luck on our phones). We realized we’re on the completely wrong side of the stadium! This kind gentleman walks his bike along with us telling us “I’m not a pervert or anything, I just want to make sure you ladies get where you need to go and that you stay safe.”
He continues to walk with us, telling us his story of growing up in DC, but having been gone a long time and now reacquainting himself with the city and amazed at how much it’s changed since he last lived there. He finds out we were at that march and talks about being willing to give Trump a chance, but that if he doesn’t do right, then he’ll be first in line to fight back. He asks us where we’re from. We tell him Massachusetts. He tells us his sister went to college there at American International College. We tell him that AIC is in Springfield and that is exactly where were heading now. He’s astounded by the coincidence and what a small world it is as are we.
We find the lot, we can see the buses. My phone rings. It’s Sarah, the bus captain asking where we are. We tell her we’ve got the bus in sight and we’ll be there shortly. So happy to arrive. Turns out there are still 3 others missing. It takes some time, but they do connect with them and they also were lost, and they got directions and eventually also find there way there. We finally leave around 2 in the morning. I never heard a single speech at the rally. I know that I will have to catch up via archive the next day, but in spite of that, the day was even more inspiring and moving than I could have expected.
Hope still survives. We can bridge the divides in our country. But it will require work, and patience. Listening and action.
This day, my day, my experience. This is what America looks like. This is what Democracy looks like.
Four days after the 2016 election, I started to write a letter to President Obama. I needed to process where my head was at and how I got to where I was now. I didn’t finished it until tonight. I share it now here as an open letter to provide the context of where I’m coming from in this blog…
Nov 12 2016
Dear President Obama –
Thank you for eight years of progress. I know you had high aspirations and sometimes fell short due inability to sway republicans and sometimes even democrats to join your position. A staunch supporter, even I sometimes disagreed with some of your decisions as president. But overall, I know that what you’ve accomplished has been overall progress in the right direction and I’m sorry your tenure as president is coming to an end. In light of the disappointing presidential election results, I want you to know that beyond the policy changes you pushed through (some of which are now at risk of reversal), you have had a lasting effect on me and many others like me. You rekindled in me a small flame of the spirit of activism I’d felt as an idealistic teenager.
Growing up in Niskayuna, NY an affluent and largely republican upstate NY town in the Capital District Region near Albany, I considered myself a 60’s throwback, distrustful of government and blind patriotism. I recognized my white privilege even then (though I didn’t call it that). I wanted to believe that I would have been an marching against the Vietnam war and for civil rights, thought those fights were before my time. While in high school, I dipped my toe into activism by writing letters for Amnesty International, circulating petitions against nuclear proliferation, and working on the Hunger Project. I didn’t get in too deep, but I had that interest, but was definitely short on follow-through. Yet, I was proud to be accused by my republican-leaning friends of being a “bleeding heart liberal”.
When I turned 18 in 1982 and registered to vote for the first time I was not a fan of either of the major parties and decided to registered unaligned to any party. I thought then that they were too monolithic and powerful and I did not want them EVER to think I was a “reliable” vote for any candidate with their letter next to their name on a ballot. I wanted to make sure my vote would be one that would be actively fought for, rather than assumed. In this way I was also declaring my openness to hearing two sides of an issue and being willing to change my position if facts and argument warrant. I was determined to always vote according to my conscience, not simply to vote based on party affiliation. And I voted my conscience, sometimes for Democrats, sometimes Republicans and sometimes third party candidates. I voted for Jesse Jackson in 1984. I joined the ACLU.
Somehow though, I lost that fire and interest in any kind of activism. I shifted my focus to studying in college. I attended the University of Virginia. I found myself in the most diverse population I’d ever experienced (albeit still “mighty white” as I’ve heard it described by African American friends) which is a bit ironically considering it’s in the south and the campus was segregated until 1955 and only allowed women to general admission in 197o.
After all, this was the University which Tom Shadyacat attended as an undergraduate and who printed the 1979 poster Are You A Preppie? https://thriftstorepreppy.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/1076/ . This was also the school Lisa Birnbach named one of the preppiest schools in America in her the 1980 book “The Official Preppie Handbook”. So I diversity was not really an expectation, I had. While there, I steered clear of the “politicos” – both the College Democrats and the Young Republicans were establishment and I was anti-establishment (or so I thought). Yet I didn’t actively engage in anything else. I kept my head down and studied and worked my part-time job.
My third year (junior year) I spent a semester abroad in Freiburg, Germany. I loved my time there, I loved the people and the country. While there I was surprised to discover a patriotism I didn’t know I possessed. I started to see differences, though subtle, between the U.S. constitution and Germany’s. But then I moved on…
I graduated and started looking for a job. The closest I got to activism was working as a Kelly Services temp putting stickers on mailers for Hands Across America. I didn’t participate in that, but I can’t say I didn’t know about it.
I got a job learning computer programming for an insurance company in Springfield, MA and when that company encourage volunteerism by allowing “work release” to volunteer an hour a week in the local school, I stepped up to participate. It was incredibly rewarding. But I let my ACLU membership lapse. I was now primarily focused on work – working 50-60 hour weeks. I eventually married and switched jobs and since the new company didn’t have “work release” to encourage volunteering, I no longer had time for that. In retrospect, sadly, I guess I really was part of the “me generation”.
Shortly after our first child was born, I found myself with a failed marriage and an infant to care for. I was luckier (more privileged) than many women in America who find themselves in the same position. I had a good (but demanding) job which allowed me some flexible work arrangements, a good relationship with my ex-husband who was an excellent and engaged father who shared equally in parenting responsibilities, and I knew that I even had a financial and emotional safety net from my immediate family, if I ever needed it. But even with all those privileges, I was still a single mom, working full time, with my nearest family living 2 hours away. I had my own problems. I had the priorities of any parent and a limited reserve of energy. Social or political activism was not in the cards.
Through all these years from high school graduation up until 2008, although I remained registered unaligned and still thought of myself as a “bleeding heart liberal”, I was merely going through the motions each election year. I voted, but I didn’t engage in any meaningful way during the period between elections. I paid minimal attention to the issues. I largely ignored my local elections. In 1992 I did make a small contribution to the DNC to see Clinton elected the first time due to my frustration with 16 years of Reagan/Bush conservative policies. I attended a rally in my home town but only because a friend had found out about it and invited me. I liked that Bill Clinton was saying – yeah we have to make change and it’s going to require some sacrifice from everyone — we’re all in it together. That resonated. So a threw a few dollars at his campaign, attended a rally in Springfield, and voted. Other than that I did nothing to advance or help the causes I said I believed in except make the occasional small monetary donation.
Then came your 2008 campaign in 2008. This was different. That lit me up a bit. Maybe it was because things went so bad between the republicans and the Clintons and then the horrible years of Bush. Maybe the political situation was finally bad enough to wake me from my stupor. The financial crisis also had me alarmed, and angered. But your campaign reminded me of how I felt as a teenager and I wanted to HOPE for CHANGE and I wanted to be a part of it.
I followed the election more closely. In Massachusetts even unaligned voters can vote in the primary. I honestly hadn’t decided between you and Hillary until I was in the booth. I believed Hillary would be a good president then. I honestly liked her and trusted her to do a good job. However, after having seen how much the republicans hated the Clintons during Bill’s presidency and the constant attacks throughout that presidency, I felt she was too much of a lightening rod to actually be able to accomplish anything once elected. I chose you instead. I liked your positions and you seemed willing to fight for them. I felt that as a senator, Hillary had sometimes compromise her positions too quickly for political expediency. But honestly, I think the deciding factor was because you were a relative unknown at the time. I figured you’d have a bit of a “free pass” while they did the digging to find the scandal to throw at you. (Unfortunately, history proved me wrong on that free pass idea – although they never had anything on which to hang their hats!)
Once I’d committed, I contributed. I bought a yard sign and put it up (WHAT?!?) – I put a bumper sticker on my car (OMG!) I continued to contribute through the general election. I still was on the sidelines a bit, but I was more engaged than ever before. I wept with happiness at your election and your inauguration. Change was coming.
With the economy near collapse and the disclosure of the behavior of the financial institutions that led to it, and the complacency and permissiveness of regulators that allowed it, I became frustrated and angry. I remembered my feelings as a teenager and felt guilty I’d taken my eye off the ball for so long. I knew I needed to do something, but I had no idea what and now idea how. But I was sure you’d be able to move the ball forward and make some change.
2009 – Ted Kennedy died leaving a vacancy in Massachusetts senate. A Massachusetts resident, I took for granted that we’d elect a relatively progressive in his place. I didn’t follow the race, I didn’t actively support either candidate, though I knew I wouldn’t vote for Scott Brown from the little about him I passively absorbed. It never occurred to me that Massachusetts would ever replace Ted Kennedy with a Republican! I was complacent, of course that seat will remain with the democrats. I voted, but I didn’t engage. Scott Brown was elected. I was shocked. I took heart that at least, as republicans went, he was more moderate than many.
Then 2010 we had Citizens United V. FEC rolling by the Supreme Court. Now I was enraged. I had some hope, though, as I listened to Elizabeth Warren talk about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which you appointed to create the agency. I thought, ah now there will be some real change. But alas, the republicans were able to stall it’s enactment. When the CFP was at risk of not being funded, I heard, Scott Brown may be a deciding vote. What had we done? What had I done? Nothing yet. But I wrote my new congressman and reminded him that even though I hadn’t voted for him, I was a constituent and would remember his position when he came up for re-election. I work for an insurance company and I reminded him that proper oversight and enforcement levels the playing field for my company which I viewed as ethical – so that they could actually compete fairly and remain ethical. Thinking that this argument may persuade him to defend the CFPB and even convince the financial services lobbyists and his colleagues in his party that it was the right position. And wow — he voted in favor and the board moved forward. I know it wasn’t my letter that convinced him. But I thought, it may have been a multitude of letters just like mine that gave him the conviction to vote that way.
When Occupy Wall Street emerged in 2011, I thought – this is it – this is the sea change the country needs. We need a revolution – not a violent one, but a revolution of thought and engagement to remind our elected officials that the 99% have more votes than the 1%. I was following and tweeting and very inspired that we may see real change against the powerful party system. I was inspired…I was going to hit the streets and join them….but then I was afraid. Now, there were acts of violence — both by the police against the peaceful protesters and factions within the protesters against police, property, others. There were stories that the movement was being co-opted by nefarious organizations, that the police and FBI and who knows who else in the government was keeping the movement under surveillance, that those in opposition were infiltrating the movement to cause violence in an effort to discredit it. The stories spun out, what was the truth? I couldn’t be sure.
That fear, that lack of confidence in the real intentions of the movement, that fear that the politicians and the powerful really were bought and owned by the 1% and would suppress that movement through any means necessary including infiltration and violence… it kept me from fully engaging. I made the occasional financial donation to the cause, but remained a “lurker”, a witness, a commenter, a tweet-er and a post-er but not really an active participant. But I was hesitant to share my affinity for that movement with anyone close to me. As summer moved into winter, the occupations were dispersed. The movement remains in many forms for different areas of focus, and I continue to follow — from a distance. Because of that engagement I ended up on loads of email lists and started signing petitions again. I would periodically speak out on Facebook or Twitter when something caught my eye.
I now was following politics more and engaging a bit. But I was still not sure what I could really do influence to make a difference and bring about change. I and I’m sure many others though we’d done our part by electing you but the progress (or lack there-of) was up to the politicians now.
So when the mid-terms rolled around and you hadn’t accomplished yet everything you’d promised (though you did keep us from the brink of economic collapse) people were disappointed and disengaged or decided not to support your party anymore. We managed to rally to keep you in the White House at re-election. But the division was growing – something still wasn’t right. I got interested in Move to Amend, still a bit on the fringes but with strong belief we need to make this change in the constitution. I renewed my ACLU membership – and began paying closer attention to these issues — net neutrality, privacy, policy brutality, private prisons, abuse of power, infringement on voting rights, civil rights, marriage equality, government transparency…. how had I forgotten all the good they do?
Then you lost control of congress – though you didn’t really have control before that, either. You couldn’t win the fight on your own, but at least you were doing the best you could with the power and influence you could wield. You called on your original supporters. Repeatedly. To such an extent it was a common late-night talk show joke. And consistently, you always took the high road when others were attacking you personally as well as politically. I was disgusted with congress but I tried to support you.
When reacting to polling question “is the government going in the right direction?” I’d want to say hell no! Those pollsters and pundits, they would interpret that “no” answer as an indictment of the your presidency.
But what I would mean is that congress is doing nothing but being obstructionist, they should be working together toward compromise. In my view, the president should be setting tone and being aspirational, and congress should be doing the hard and dirty work of finding a way to get as close to that goal as possible through debate, discussion and compromise.
Instead it was all turned upside down – republicans just say no, democrats would concede some point expecting a concession from the other side, but nothing came. It was always one sided — that’s not compromise that’s contempt. Republicans are now deciding what can be discussed, what appointments will be debated and voted on, and what actions they’ll take — too often in direct contradiction to the sentiment of the people. How is that happening — ah, their constituents must not be engaging — they only hear from the lobbyists.
Then came Bernie…and I was inspired to engage again. I really loved his message, but I was hesitant to get behind him early in the primary season. I wasn’t sure – was he just going to be a spoiler like Jesse Jackson? Or was he the real deal? So I held off contributing until pretty late. I again found myself with that choice between Hillary who I truly respected and Bernie who inspired me to believe that my youthful idealism may not be out of style. I finally committed to him, but not in time to help him win Massachusetts. I was disappointed he didn’t win the primary, but I recognized that his success had an influence on the platform and threw myself behind Hillary.
As you can imagine, the 2016 election gutted me. However, your example, your presidency continues to give me hope. I’m committed and engaged. I joined the Women’s March on Washington last weekend. And I’m committed to be more active, to do real work this time around.
So, as you adjust to life as a civilian again. As you look at how crazy this country is getting. Do not despair that your legacy is in danger. Your presidency stands in stark contrast to the Trump Presidency to inspire and fire up millions of others much like me, who if not for YOU, may still be complacent and disengaged.
Thank you, President Obama for your class, your eloquence and above all for instilling in me the Audacity of Hope