change we can believe in
In 1992, I was a young canvasser, working for the peace movement in California, when Bill Clinton was elected president. On Election Night, a friend and I drove back to San Francisco after a day of canvassing for one of those Year of the Woman congressional candidates, and as we listened to George Bush’s concession speech on the radio, my friend opened the window of the car, and just started screaming with joy, yelling to all the passersby. We got back to the City to discover that there was a massive street party going on, and all around us, people were happy & filled with hope.
For weeks after the election, people opened their doors, invited us in, wrote us checks, gave us drinks, and let us use their bathrooms. Although most people I knew were disappointed that a DLC member had achieved the presidency, as opposed to a more progressive candidate, we were sooooo happy to see the end of George Bush I. As we moved into the inaugural moment, people were still excited and hopeful. But the sense that they had to do something—that people in communities all over America had to stand up and support the president, if they wanted to see change happen—started to fade. People stopped throwing checks at us, and went back to their TVs, and their dinners, and their regular lives.
And nothing really changed.
Don’t get me wrong—we won some things in the Clinton years. But we also lost a lot. We lost the ability to fix the healthcare crisis in 1993, when people bought the propaganda that the big insurance companies were shelling out via their Harry & Louise commercials. We lost the battle to maintain an economic safety net, seeing the right wing win major victories on welfare reform, that pushed thousands of moms around the country into the workforce, whether they were ready to be there or not. We lost on NAFTA, and saw millions of US manufacturing jobs move overseas.
I’m the age now, of many of the people that I canvassed back in 1992. I’m a homeowner, I have a full-time job, and kids, and lots of responsibilities. But the one responsibility that I’m not giving up is the promise to my country I made when I voted for Barack Obama. The promise to keep raising my voice and demanding change, and to make sure that my congressmen (and yes, they all are men) know that I support the president in his call for change that’s not incremental, for change that is sweeping and transformative for our country.
I don’t want to be sitting here, 16 years from now, wishing I had stepped away from the TV or the dinner, or even the kids, to take action that helped change my country.