Wednesday, November 10, 2004

On the recent Election, being an American Liberal

(Reprinted from a message to my friends)

I do not usually write e-mails to everyone on my list, but I wanted to let everyone know about my experience working for the John Kerry campaign in Nevada. Also, I wanted to get a few words in about politics in general.

Getting involved wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was. I expected to be put in a phone bank somewhere getting cursed out by interrupted people at dinner. Instead, it turns out most of the work needed in a campaign is going door to door talking to supporters, making sure people know where their poll place is, and finding out which people need rides to get there. It was fun.

The first two days we spent in Reno and I was working “rural” duty. I got to know the town of Fernley NV pretty well. They have good hamburgers and blueberry milkshakes with actual blueberries in it! At first we thought it was weird to have so many people working Reno’s county (since it hadn’t gone Dem in a while) but it turned out it was a ruse. We made a go at Reno to draw off Republican efforts. They actually sent Cheney down there to do some last minute campaigning. If the only thing I accomplished during those four days was waste four or five hours of Dick Cheney’s time, it would have still been worth it. As it was, we ended up driving to Las Vegas.

The Dems put us up in a nice hotel and each car took responsibility for one prescient. Ours had a black neighborhood, a retirement community, and a rich neighborhood that had too many Bush/Cheney signs for my liking. (I’m told that people earning over $100,000 helped provide Bush with his margin of victory). Half way through voting, there was a hubbub at our voting place when a Republican poll-watcher illegally demanded that the people from the non-partisan “Protect the Vote” removed their identifying shirts. The public interest lawyers volunteering for the Dems pointed out that the Republicans were wrong and by the end of the day the whole thing was on the local news, with the sassy “Protect the Vote” lady giving the Republicans a piece of her mind.

We lost. I’m sure you all know that. And while it broke my heart to know that America would be gripped by corruption, secrecy and intolerance for four more years we shouldn’t lose sight of the good things that happened. For the first time ever the Liberals had as much money in an elections as the Republicans. We got 49% of the vote without the power of incumbency (like Gore or Clinton) or a third party nominee (like Perot). We had more people volunteer than ever before. We’ve started taking the media seriously with media watch dogs and talk radio stations (something which I was always for). Basically, people are starting to take politics seriously.

This is why I’m writing this letter. Most of you are (or recently were) students so like me, you can’t give money. But next time there is an election, think about volunteering. Read a book. I suggest “Lies, and the Lying Liars who tell them”, or if you’re into cog-sci “Don’t think of an Elephant”. Get a subscription to a liberal magazine. It’s pretty damn easy and it probably doesn’t cost more than $10 a year. Try Mother Jones for the emotional, Harpers for the literary, The American Prospect for the wonky, or whatever else you’d like. Mostly though, do something. It’s our country too, darn it, and in four years, when the conservatives (and anarchist libertarians, and intolerant theocrats) are through wrecking our country, dividing us through lies, and wasting our children’s future on their corporate cronies, we can say we did something.

We may not all agree on every point of policy, and we don’t have to. If you believe in getting serious about remedying terrorism, fighting its causes and its symptoms, you’re a liberal. If you think it’s wrong to log our countries forests for pennies or poison our air without punishment, you’re liberal. If you think it’s unjust for the wealthy conservative elite to raid their workers trust funds for spending money, you’re liberal. If you think it’s wrong to run up an unsustainable deficit because we’re afraid to ask corporations to pay their dues to society, you’re a liberal. If you believe that religion should inspire politicians, not policy, you’re a liberal. If you believe the government should be smarter, not bigger, you’re a liberal. In short, if you’re an American (in the true revolutionary minuteman sense of the word) you are a liberal. So don’t let people tell you otherwise. And be proud.

I would like to thank the two people who have read this far.

Update: A couple friends have written back with questions and comments. One constructive criticism was a friend who thought it was not quite right to sully Libertarians with an Anarchist reference. Another was from a friend who was upset that I would associate Libertarianism with the egalitarian Anarchists. The moral of the story: I know some pretty smart people.


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