Stop and think a moment. Tuesday November 4, 2008. Election night. I bet you can remember where you were, what you were doing.
We had invited friends over, to celebrate together, or commiserate together- who knew? We weren’t sure what the outcome of the election would be. Would Obama carry Pennsylvania and Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina?
We had the computer set up with MSNBC, and the champagne was flowing. Earlier that day at the Central library information desk where I worked I answered many many questions about where people could vote. These people were mostly elderly, looked like the “urban poor” and many were African Americans. I checked the Registrar of Voters on my computer and told them where they had to go and felt very proud that this is what library workers do.
When I got off the bus that morning- it was drizzling- I asked the group of homeless people at 9th and Broadway downtown whether they had voted. They laughed and said “Lady, we’re homeless…” Imagine that, homeless people, like felons, don’t have the right to vote.
Eight o’clock rolled around that night and we could not believe our eyes or ears- Barack Obama had won the election! We gathered up pots and pans and stood on the front porch and banged and made a joyful noise. All up and down my block voices were cheering in the night and there was salsa music and hoorays and it was as if a wildly uplifting secret had finally been revealed.
I stood there on my porch and banged on a pot and cried. I cried in relief- the wasteland of eight friggin’ years of two wars, Guantanamo, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was over. A chance for women’s reproductive rights and health care reform lay ahead.
I’m 59 years old, pretty damn tough and don’t cry easily. The first presidential vote I cast was for Shirley Chisholm in 1972. (I wonder whether I will ever cast a vote for a woman president again- I’d like to do that before I leave this earthly paradise.) But I have to say this time was different. It was not simply the nuts and bolts of politics. It was the heart and soul of what so many of us believed in.
Tonight it is one year on. I have experienced first hand the town hall debacles. We are mired in a health care debate that may very well be scuttled by the Democratic party; two wars continue and a third CIA “intrusion” in Pakistan slips under the radar of everyone except the Pakistanis; don’t ask don’t tell hasn’t been eliminated at the flourish of the executive pen; and it seems that every sperm is sacred.
I’m 59 years old, pretty damn tough and don’t cry easily, but tonight I sit here feeling oddly defeated. Over this past year I started reading blogs- Huffington Post, Firedoglake and Daily Kos. Rachel Maddow has become my consistent source of news and Jon Stewart had made me laugh and get it.
Much has been made of the conservative base- the tea baggers, the wingnuts, the astroturfers. But what about our progressive base? We should be kicking major ass right now, and why isn’t that happening?
So where were you one year ago and what should we be doing?