Monday, November 24, 2008

How I Spent My Weekend

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

For someone like me, just because the election is over, it does not mean that I go back to “regular life.” The difference this year is that there are still people who are interested in politics, and too bad for them, I know who they are.

On a personal note, and very sadly, I spent a fair part of my weekend helping someone plan her own funeral. I apologized that I spent so little time with Glenda over the last several months, election and all. She told me no, that she was proud, and asked that after she passes, I stay on the case of fighting for universal health care. I told her I was all over it. They will be trying a new drug starting today. If successful, she’ll have seven more months. Maybe a few more.

On Friday night, I attended a local party celebrating the election win in the town next door to where I live. That town was part of our 5-township Obama team, so while I “knew” 2 people there, in addition there were a bunch of people I knew on sight who either worked on a voter registration drive, a canvass, or one of the phone banks. A lot of these folks were still in awe about winning. (If you’ve been a Democrat a long time, you may well know the feeling.)

One of the guys came up to me and asked how I knew that we would win. He said “You never wavered. You just kept saying ‘We have a plan, we work the plan. We work the plan, we win. Elections are won one voter at a time.’ How could you have been so sure?” A few other people mentioned that as late as Election Day, they still didn’t believe we’d won until they saw McCain’s concession speech.

Despite my press, I do not do futures. I only knew what everyone else knew. But what I believed was that millions of people just like me were working all across the world: some with money, some with canvassing, phone banking, blogging, writing letters to the editor, calling friends and family, even just hoping from afar. And it’s that energy, that wave, that made all the difference.

So at the party, I picked up a few more people for my 2009 programs. By spring, we will be all over early voting in Pennsylvania by 2012, book drives in response to the libraries closing in Philadelphia, food drives for the local hungry, political discussion groups, and voter registration.

On Sunday, there was that attempt to buy food. As an aside, Thursday is Thanksgiving. If you’re an American reading this, likely you’ll be spending Thursday with people you know and love, or at least know. (Putting the “fun” back in “dysfunctional” and all that.) If you live elsewhere in the world, I don’t think you celebrate Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t matter for the point I’m going to make.

Within 5 miles, maybe less, of where you are sitting right now is someone who will be hungry on Thursday. Probably hungry today. I hope you’ll go out and buy some food and donate it to a food bank. If you can’t afford the $10 to do so, volunteer a few hours at a local soup kitchen.


So anyway, on Sunday I was at Trader Joe’s in an attempt to buy some food. We all have our limitations, and buying food is one of mine. I had wanted to buy some Clementines and yams and a turkey to donate to the local Thanksgiving drive. I left with 2 Clif Bars and some dried chicken strips for my puppy dog. What happened instead was that I got into a conversation with a couple, Republicans, about political action in Pennsylvania.

I know this couple because we attended a course together a few years ago. Also, they live about a quarter mile away, and I would see them often during voter registration season. (Everyone shops at Trader Joe’s.) They had three questions for me: why is the primary system so scattered around the country and can we fix it? How do we get rid of earmarks, and if we do so, doesn’t that fix the Federal budget? And finally, are they allowed to work voter registration?

I was struck by how tenaciously they clung to the idea that earmarks were the cause of the economic woes we face as a country today. Also, how convinced they were that universal health care was meant only for greedy ne’er-do-wells who never worked an honest day in their lives. As you can well imagine, it took a while. And yes, they’ll be working voter registration next spring.

My other political action for the weekend was to eat brunch at the home of a local prominent Democrat, on the invite of another prominent local Democrat who had set this up and also attended. I want to start by saying, with the arrogance that only a native New Yorker can have, the bagels were GREAT!

The reason for this was for them to find a way to “bring me into the fold” or to at least get me to cease saying bad things about them. This emanates from an email I sent out last spring to several local prominent Democrats basically begging them to get to work THAT DAY to stop the Jim Gerlach machine from winning in November. The problem was not the email, per se, but that it ended up getting sent to a number of additional people, and it appears that it might have actually made it into local publication (although I don’t have confirmation on that) and heaven knows where else. Point is, **I** didn’t do it. I wrote it, I emailed it, and then someone else did something with it. While I take responsibility for my words, I don’t know how to control where they end up.

The discussion, more than anything, was about tactics. Our goals are similar, albeit not synonymous. The local Democrats believe in organizing top-down: running candidates for row positions, getting people into feeder positions (like the appointed Boards), and visibility. My position is that if you organize from the bottom up, you can affect enough action to get those people elected. We all believe in running capable, competent people: the difference is that my point is you can get these people elected more easily if the grassroots organization is in place.

It could have gone much worse.

I tell this to you because no matter where you are, you too can affect change. You can organize your block to make local changes, to participate in national change, to work on a project that makes peoples’ lives better. We have voted for change, we believed in change: that should stay with us even though the 2008 election has passed.

If you haven’t done so already, go out and organize your block. It's easier than you may think.