The Left Can’t Remain Silent

PACG President Cathy Bolcom greets presidential candidate IL Senator Barack Obama at Rally in Davenport, IA

Cathy Bolkcom PACG President greets Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama in Davenport, Iowa

We won!! In 2008 WE WON!!

Barack Obama fulfilled our hopes and dreams and plans of the past 8 years that were shattered twice by George W Bush. The first time by a complacent country that was lulled by the prosperity of the Clinton Presidency and turned off by his peccadilloes. The second time our downfall was fears that if we threw our problem out, we’d be admitting to the world that we were weak and ready for invasion.

Exemplary campaigns did not preceded either election. Al Gore couldn’t quite get his public image right and the election results left us all stunned by the problems that finally decided the outcome.

In 2004, the field of candidates was broad and diverse. And the field moved up and down and up and down in the polls. And candidates made some questionable choices. And the media caught others in unflattering light.

Howard Dean was one of the latter when his scream with supporters after the Iowa Caucus appeared over and over and over again by the media. He organized a great online network of people to organize all of the usual electioneering—phone calls, door knocking, stuffing envelopes, and fund-raising. But he added to the usual jobs, with his online fund-raising success. He took the political world by surprise with his technological social media success. Of course the same tools that he exploited for success, added to his downfall when “the scream” made it online and could be seen any time day or night on the World Wide Web.

But he was ever the gentleman and conceded that he would not be the candidate that emerged from the Democratic convention and put his vast network to work behind the Democratic Party and renamed his network from Dean for America to Democracy for America (DFA).

Howard Dean moved on to lead the Democratic Party as its Chairman, and his brother Jim took over DFA leadership.

The local Quad Cities group (DFA-QC) remained active and involved in the political process through the bad times and now in the good. I didn’t make an early choice during the primary season, but as the year wore on and everyone rallied behind the front-runner, the campaign pulled me in with the DFA people.

All of my issues were their issues:  the environment, health care, peace, racial equality, fighting poverty, respect for all people, and protecting our Constitutional freedoms especially speech, religion, the press, and assembly.

The local group meets every month. They organize events with the National DFA and other groups such as Move On and the Democratic Party. They stage protests against the war in Iraq, for Health Care Reform, and against Supreme Court rulings that enhance the personhood of corporations. They host training seminars with DFA, conference calls with Move On, and socials with Drinking Liberally.

2008 was a year full of activities and hard work. Not only the presidential race, but local battles for House and Senate seats and Governorships required active workers throughout the year.

Then—WE WON!!

We celebrated and slapped backs and breathed sighs of relief.

Then some of us held our breath to see if the people we sent to Washington, DC would fulfill our expectations. Others let relief be their main emotion and sat back to rest for four years. The left got pretty quite.

Dove with Olive BranchAfter 9 years of war protests, fighting for human rights, and battling the conservatives on issues from creation to abstinence education and from school vouchers to whether Hurricane Katrina was God’s retribution on us for our lack of morals, many of us were tired. We wanted to rest on our laurels.

But now the right believes they are entitled to shout at what they don’t like. And they do have that right. I would never say they don’t. And if we don’t like it, we aren’t supposed to stop them from speaking, but continue to speak for our own convictions.

The same day I heard a report that US school children are still falling behind their peers around the world; I witnessed a news story about a group of “Tea Baggers” shouting that the health care bill will not only not help anyone, but actually hurt them.

My first thought was, no wonder the kids aren’t doing well in school. If so many adults are that easily swayed by lies to rage against their own self-interest and fight the health care bill. I won’t go into the benefits of the bill or what the people were saying. That’s for another post. It’s just an example of what’s going on in the world now that the political right does not have its own role model in the White House any more.

I knew that we couldn’t just sit around and say we won so we don’t need to do anything else. But I also ran head-long into my lack of self-esteem. (I may be beating this idea to death and you may think that since I know it, I should just get own with getting over it, but for 49 years I’ve allowed the idea to ultimately silence me and I have to name it in public over and over and over to make it lose its power over me.) I didn’t think anyone would care what I thought. So I sat in my house, in front of the computer, and fretted over the lack of action on the part of my former allies.

I was also looking for a career that I really want to spend time creating. I’m doing it by fighting against that little voice that lives in the pit of my stomach that tells me I haven’t succeeded at life yet, so I don’t have a chance in doing it now either.

So at this point, I attended the monthly DFA-QC meeting. Back in a circle of friends. Back with a group that sees the world the same way I do. Back with activists.

The conversation was about the impending Health Care bill vote coming up that weekend in the House of Representatives. We were even sharing meeting space with Organizing for America—formerly Obama for America—members who were making phone calls to encourage people to let their reps know they want it passed.

We also discussed the upcoming mid-term elections. We talked about the economy and how unfettered capitalism doesn’t work for most people. We talked about the fact that we have not withdrawn our troops from Iraq nor found Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Then we talked about the fact that many of us were sitting around silently waiting for the fixes that the economy and people need to happen just because people promised it would. And decided we need to get moving. We need to speak up. We need to support candidates that want the same things we do. We can’t let the other side dominate the airwaves and blogosphere with attacks and threats against the people who we elected to protect us.

One of the members at the meeting, who is just a couple of years older than me, said he remembers when the government didn’t tax people just to pay the bills of a big government. Taxes were higher than they are now at the upper end, but that the deductions and credits people got were for doing good for the community—not just for accumulating wealth.

If people or corporations gave money to build hospitals, put new equipment in classrooms, staff homeless shelters, or provide meals they were able to reduce their taxes. If they didn’t do that, then they had to pay the full tax bill so the government could do it for them. Then in the 80s the idea of allowing people to just have more money so they could spend it and stimulate the economy which would stimulate the labor market and encourage people to be generous without incentives—Reagan’s infamous trickle-down economics—embedded itself in the American psyche and the tax code lead the way.

And at this point I decided that I need to write about these things. I need to stop being silent. I need to be the change I want to see in the world.

Then I met a man who is a writer also. We met through MeetUp matched as people who were both looking for a group of writers to meet with. I sent him a message and we met. We don’t hold out a lot of hope for forming a group, but I believe I made a new friend and already he’s checked up on me to see if I got off my duff and did the work I said I would do this week.

It’s amazing what having someone ask me if I did it does for my motivation! I have something to say and people need to hear it. And now I have my “kick in the pants” to get me to do it.

Thanks Jim! I really feel good about the time I spent working this week. And since I know you’re looking over my virtual shoulder to check on me, I will make it a habit! I even wrote about 15% more than my goal—of course that’s not the hard part. The hard part is getting started, and then stopping again.

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