On this “day-after-the-election” I wanted to share with you, my reader, some of my thoughts and feellings about the historic journey we have all witnessed, and explain my fascination with the cause.
I began covering the candidates who appeared at the Iowa caucuses the year that (Dr.) Howard Dean ran for president. My long-dormant political passion was stoked by drifting across the steet from teaching classes at the Kahl Building in downtown Davenport, Iowa, and wandering into the downtown Dean headquarters. We were urged to stay and share our thoughts and feelings about the state of America. I became hugely disillusioned in the wake of the 2000 election that saw “hanging chads” in Florida and the Supreme Court select George W. Bush as our 43rd president. I found it incomprehensible that one man’s brother (then-Governor Jeb Bush of Florida) could hand the most important office in our land to someone totally unprepared. The process was broken. I, along with many others, felt betrayed. I have felt that only once before…when a 1st Ward Alderman race I had labored long and hard in turned out to be “rigged,” was proven to have had officials at the top playing fast-and-loose with the absentee ballots, but nothing…not one word…was written in the local newspaper, despite the presence of a reporter from same (Jenny Lee of the Moline, Illinois, Daily Dispatch). it is one thing for candidates to cheat and get caught. That happens every day. My point: where is the retribution? Where is the “gotcha'” moment that restores the true, natural order of the universe? It seemed that the sense of decency and honesty in the election process that i had watched my father helped preserve in his races for Democratic County Treasurer of Buchanan County (IA) had evaporated, and in its place was corruption at the very heart of the political process…even in small-town America. If counties like Rock Island County, Illinois, were proven to be as dirty as Cook County in Chicago, what was the world coming to? And if proving it, in court, didn’t bring at least a slap on the hand to the perpetrators, could our national election process be far behind in granting complete impunity to those who would steal our democracy from us?
I live in a divided household, an Arnold Schwarzenegger/Maria Shriver split, with no one but me weighing in as a Democrat or…at times…an Independent. When one family member admits to glee at the time that JFK was shot, the feeling of complete alienation from what is right and what is good becomes pervasive. I have never wished death on a candidate, no matter how corrupt or evil I might perceive them to be. I have the same horror of that kind of thinking as I do for not trying (at least) to see the other person’s point of view.
Many times, my life partner would tell me that, in expressing my support for a candidate that (apparently) did not provide congruency with his own choices, I was or had been “obnoxious.” This meant that I had spoken my mind about the lack of preparedness or the general quality of a Repubican, usually, and I had found them wanting. at the same time, I hosted coffees for a Republican neighbor (Ray LaHood, last out of Peoria) and contributed to more than one Republican candidate (Andrea Zinga, Dave Machacek) so, was I really the blind straight-party voting ticket person that my spouse accused me of being during various discussions that generated far more heat than light? No. I was someone who would weigh the candidates and try my best to select that individual who could best lead our country in troubled times.
No times are more troubled than now. The economy is spiraling downward. We are fighting on two fronts. Our esteem abroad seemed irreparably shattered by a pre-emptive war that should never have been started, begun by a man who wanted to show dear old dad that he could do it better. History will judge if junior did a better job or a worse job than his father, but, as for me, in my semi-retirement, determined to write as I had always planned to do, I became political.
Oh, we still observed the political sticker moratorium, after the years of a Republican bumper sticker being applied over a Democratic bumper sticker ad nauseum, but I was not content to sit idly by and watch my country go down the tubes in the wake of George W. Bush. I became convinced that a president who was determined to ‘win at any costs” and a running mate with little or no foreign policy experience and some very esoteric views about the rest of the world and science and religion spelled certain doom for what remained of this once-great nation.
And I also decided that the best way for me to contribute to the victory of one (of many excellent Democratic candidates (Obama, Clinton, Richardson, Edwards, et. al.) as opposed to the reactionary forces of the Republicans arrayed against them was to throw off the cloak of meek-and-mild indifference and DO SOMETHING. Anything. Even if it was the wrong something, it would be better than a Bush clone in the White House. After all, what more could the man ruin.
It was this decision, made during a previous election run, that led me to ‘blog” for Iowa (www.blogforiowa), which, no doubt, earned me a place on George W. Bush’s enemies list. I took popular song lyrics and turned them into political gems aimed at exposing the Man Who Would be King. With humor, I aimed barbs at “the Decider,” covering Abu Ghraib and all things horrible like it. My journey had begun, and it would not end until November 4, 2008, in Grant Park in Chicago (see video above).
Through the bitter cold of Iowa’s winter, I tracked caucus candidates like Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd and Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack obama to school gymnasiums and people’s living rooms. I listened to their message(s) of change and hope. I contributed cash, but, more importantly, I contributed time and effort, attempting to let others know what I was able to observe, up-close-and-personal. Yes, some of my early heroes turned out to have feet of clay (Edwards, anyone?), but the eventual winner of this marathon race seems like the right man for the job at the right time in history.
The palpable enthusiasm at last night’s part gathering was like a city celebrating a World Series or a Super Bowl victory. Just a few moments ago, sitting in my 7th floor condo on Indiana Avenue near Hutchinson Field, a red balloon, no doubt left over from last night’s celebration, drifted past my balcony door. Today, though I am tired, I feel that, somehow, we, as a nation are back on the right track. It is a given that other nation’s will see Barack Obama as a worthy representative of this nation’s highest ideals. After years of a stumbling, incoherent leader who not only could not speak well, but could not lead well, we will have a well-qualified, well-educated, hard-working man who seems to genuinely love his family and his country in ways that do not visit death and destruction on the rest of the world.
I pray for Barack Obama on this day-after-the-election. I revel in the knowledge that I was “there,” inside, at the Pepsi Center in Denvr, at the Excel Center in St. Paul, at the Target Center for the Ron Paul Rally in Minneapolis, at the Iowa caucuses, at the Belmont Town Hall Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, and, last night, in Grant Park where Barack Obama started this nation on a brand new journey that I hope will restore this country’s honor and reputation, both abroad and at home.