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.

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January 23, 2009. politically motivated.

5 Comments

  1. She Started It replied:

    I don’t want to be sitting here, either. Great post. Go Barack!

  2. Jackie replied:

    What a great post– I totally agree, and though I am glad to see hopeful beginnings, there is so much ahead of us. Let’s get to work!

  3. elise replied:

    Seeing the things that Bill Clinton did get accomplished is what made me realize that I could never vote republican ever again….that is a good thing! The glaring contrast between him and George W. Bush made me realize the depth of the republican lies. (Believe it or not the contrast between him and H.W. were not enough – I’m a bit ashamed to say that but I try to live in the present). I pray that Obama gets reelected because I believe it will take him 4 years to get us out of the messes that Bush got us into. Reading your post makes me realize that I need to be more optimistic though!

  4. MommyWithAttitude replied:

    We got “don’t ask don’t tell” from Clinton too — which is why (go ahead and throw tomatoes at me!) I’m not really as filled with hope as everyone else is… I do have hope that I will be proven wrong, though — thanks for the reminder that I have work to do too.

  5. winning « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] Right after the election, I wrote a post that described the price my family paid because of my decision to spend six months of 2008 working to get Barack Obama elected, and what I expected to get for that effort, to compensate us for that price. On Inauguration Day, I wrote another post, committing to help make change. […]

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