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.


January 23, 2009. politically motivated. 5 comments.


Four years ago, during the last most-important-election-of-our-lifetime, I went to a training by Wellstone Action, and got this great t-shirt. Now, the Potato sleeps in it. It strikes me as the perfect shirt for today, and the perfect kid political t-shirt. I’ve done all of these things in the last 24 hours*, and you should too. After all, we don’t want to have to make another one of these.

If you can’t read it, it says:









*(Well, except for the voting, which I did 2 weeks ago.)

November 3, 2008. politically motivated. 5 comments.

vote, give, act

If you’re in California, please vote against Prop. 8 for true equality. If you’re in CA or a neighboring state, consider volunteering for Equality California. If you’re neither of those things, consider just giving them some money.

H/T to AngryBlackBitch for pointing out the 8 Against 8 blogger campaign.

October 22, 2008. '08 election, politically motivated. 1 comment.

so let me get this straight…

we can’t afford to pay for health care for people who live in this country—but we can afford a $1 trillion bailout of Wall Street?

Guess we know who matters in this country.

September 21, 2008. politically motivated. 5 comments.

what’s at stake?

Well, the freedom to join a union without intimidation, for one!

September 20, 2008. politically motivated. 1 comment.

things I’m thankful for, this 9/11th

Three years ago, I wrote a post in the wake of the Katrina disaster that referred to one of my favorite speeches by Martin Luther King—a speech where King made the following observation: “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

We can’t have a politic anymore that allows people in New Orleans to drown while the President ignores them. We can’t have a politic that sends our country into the worst recession of a generation, while the President cuts taxes on the richest one percent of us. We can’t have a politic where the President sends over 4,000 men and women to die in Iraq, and thousands more to be wounded, while he jokes about having given up his golf game, because it makes him look bad to play golf while we’re at war.

We can’t have a politic anymore where, not only are the bootless expected to pull themselves up by their own bootstrings, but they’re disenfranchised from voting because of their bootlessness.

Earlier today, I was at a meeting where the person who was running the meeting asked us, as part of the introductions, to say something about 9/11. At first, I thought it was a mistake. After all, even the presidential campaigns have suspended advertising to commemmorate the day–do we really want to be talking about it at this political meeting?

But as people went around introducing themselves, it occurred to me that I have a lot to be grateful for, when I think about 9/11. Here’s what I said:

Hi, I’m landismom, and my daughter is almost 9. This morning, when we were getting ready to leave the house, she looked at the school calendar, and said, “9/11 Remembrance–what’s that?”

And I was so happy that she did.

After September 11, both my husband and I were working as organizers, and in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, we knew people who were being detained, knew people who were foreign nationals who were prevented from coming back into the country because of their political beliefs, knew someone who was questioned by the police because he was taking pictures of an oil refinery.

I was terrified that we needed to find new work, and establish guardianship for our daughter, terrified that in the lockdown on civil liberties that those of us who have been active on the left would be jailed, and that my daughter would be taken by the state.

Some terrible things happened to this country after 9/11, chief among them the Patriot Act. But the fact of the matter is that the work that we all do—that we community organizers, who are so recently belittled by the GOP, have been and continue to do—kept this country from sliding into utter fascism. And I’m grateful for that.

In September and October of 2001, when most of the country was fearing anthrax and future terrorist attacks, the thing I worried most about (well, after we got through with the miscarriage) was being separated from my only child by my government, because I was a leftist.

I’m fortunate, in that I don’t (yet) live in a country that punishes people for their political beliefs (though try telling that to members of the Communist Party). There are many other parts of the world where children grow up without their parents, where wives lose their husbands, where mothers never see their adult sons alive again because they are independent reporters, or trade unionists, or political party activists. And even in this country, we have a fairly well-established tradition of persecuting activists on the left.

We all have a collective responsibility to make sure this country never again represses people for their political beliefs. We all need to work together to make sure that our country lives up to the ideals on which it was founded.

September 11, 2008. politically motivated. 3 comments.

a warning to you, gentle reader

For all my readers (I think there are still 2 or 3 of you left!), I post this warning:

From this point until Election Day, expect to find political content on this blog. Sure, there will still be a cute-kid post or two, but from here on out, if you’re not comfortable reading about the presidential election (and my support of a certain {cough}Barack{cough} candidate in that race, it might be time for you to unsubscribe.

If, on the other hand, you want to see a boatload of leftist politics? Come on down.

You may now continue with your regular blog reading.

September 9, 2008. politically motivated. 9 comments.

the Bee’s first canvass math

I’m guessing that you probably can’t make out the photo, but it represents a major milestone in my daughter’s life.

While we were driving to camp this morning, the Bee and I were having a conversation about technology, and how it’s changed the way I do various things over the course of my life, and how it my change over the course of her life. She asked me for an example, and we got into a conversation about the work that I’m doing now on the election, and how field work in general has changed in the 16-odd (ulp!) years that I’ve been doing electoral work.

Which led to a discussion of canvass math–which is basically the formula that I use to figure out how many voter contacts a canvass operation might be expected to make over the course of a campaign–which lets me know how many voters we have to target in our field campaign. She thought it sounded interesting (really, it’s not. well, okay it is to me, but to most people? snoresville), and she asked me if we could practice tonight–she was especially excited to do it when I told her that I used a spreadsheet, because I generally didn’t want to do that kind of math in my head–she saw it as a challenge (can I do math that Mom can’t do?).

And lo and behold, when I picked her up, she asked me about it again. So here are the problems I set for the Bee. Let’s see how you can do! Note: the problems are progressive (i.e.–the answer is in the next question)–don’t read ahead until you figure out the first one. The Bee got them all right, are you as smart as a fourth-grader?

If a canvasser makes 15 contacts in an hour and canvasses for 4 hours, how many contacts will she make during her 4-hour shift?

If every canvasser makes 60 contacts in a shift, & there are 4 canvassers on a team, how many contacts will the team make in a shift?

If one canvass team makes 240 contacts in one shift, how many contacts will they make over one week (5 shifts)?

If one canvass team makes 1,200 contacts in a week, how many contacts will they make over a 20 week campaign?

If one canvass team makes 24,000 contacts over the course of a campaign, how many contacts will 17 canvass teams make?

So, who out there has a future in running a field campaign? I will confess that I made the problems a little easier than the ones that occur in real-life field planning–for example, the likelihood that all of the canvass teams start the same day (or even the same week) is pretty unlikely–but I was still mighty impressed that she could figure out the formulas that she needed to answer the questions. Maybe by 2012, she’ll be ready to be a coordinate a staging location…that sounds like more fun than eighth grade, doesn’t it?

July 15, 2008. politically motivated. 4 comments.

I live in a sick, sick country

Okay, I’m taking a time-out from self-recriminations to be mad at my ridiculous country once again. Why, you may ask?

Well, I was poking around on CNN today after reading the breaking announcement about Sen. Kennedy’s brain tumor (and sending good thoughts to his family) when I came across this story.

I’m not really sure if I’ve read a worse piece of news than that this year. More upsetting even than the individual story that they focused on is the fact that the city of Santa Barbara has set aside 12 parking lots for homeless people to sleep in their cars.


I guess it’s cheaper than actually developing housing that’s affordable, though. Plus, the city gets the added bonus of looking busy at all hours of the day and night!

At the turn of the century, I worked for an organization that was organizing welfare mothers who were being moved from welfare to work. One of my responsibilities there was policy research, and I remember reading a study that someone had done (in the early 90s? not sure) about how the differences between the way that poverty is portrayed in the media during a recession (lots of ‘deserving poor,’ who tend to be white folks that lost a job and fell on hard times) versus the way it is portrayed in good economic times (lots of multi-generational ‘welfare queens’ who drive cadillacs and are black).

I’ve been noticing a lot of poor white folks in the news recently, is all I’m saying.

May 20, 2008. politically motivated. 5 comments.

back to the politics

I hope you all had a lovely Mother’s Day (if you’re a mother), or you just got to sleep in on a Sunday (if you’re not). My favorite moment of the morning was when I came down the stairs (after being summoned to breakfast) to see the Potato acting as a maitre d’, asking me if I had a reservation. I could have eaten him for breakfast!

But Mother’s Day is over now, and I’m back to my usually snarky self. Here’s my new favorite political blog:

Things younger than McCain

H/T landisdad. Enjoy!

May 12, 2008. politically motivated. 4 comments.

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