Get off the couch, get off Facebook and show up
I stopped at a grocery store on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to buy sparkling wine before picking up my son from daycare; I was expecting to celebrate. On the way out the door, my neighbor asked me if I was nervous about the election.
“I am confident that the best woman will win,” I replied.
I supported Bernie in the primaries, but was never a Bernie or Bust-er, and was genuinely excited about a Clinton White House.
Six hours later, I was staring in disbelief at the map, the big red middle of the country, the states that had voted democratic for so long that had flipped. It didn’t seem real — a reality TV star and thoroughly mediocre developer who openly expressed racist, misogynistic, and Islamophobic ideas (and then inexplicably denied that he had just done so) won in an electoral landslide.
As the absentee votes piled in over the next week it seemed even more unreal: Clinton took the popular vote by almost three million, and still Trump wins. I remember looking at the results: Clinton – 65,443,689; Trump – 62,800,198. Winner? Trump. The rest of the world must think we can’t do basic arithmetic.
After the initial shock and hurt wore off, I was left with two questions: How did this happen, and what do we do now?
While it’s very tempting to blame others and outside forces (the people who voted for him, latent racism and sexism, economic forces, the archaic electoral college system), I ultimately realized that to find the true reason Trump won, I needed to look inside myself. Trump didn’t win, the democrats lost. And they lost because of people like me.
I am a progressive democrat, and I have always supported progressive causes in theory, but in practice, all I ever did was vote. I had a vague notion for most of my life that things were generally going the right way, and I was content to let other people handle it. I heard other democrats complain about neoliberalism and its influence in the party, but truth be told, I didn’t really understand what the term meant. I didn’t know the first thing about how the political sausage was made, and I was perfectly content in my ignorance — right up until the moment that Trump won, and it became painfully obvious to me that something was deeply wrong with a country that elects him over Hillary Clinton.
So what exactly was so wrong? After some soul-searching and a lot of researching, I came to the conclusion that the primary central problem is in the Democratic party, not the Republican party. And the problem isn’t just with the leadership of the party, but with the Democratic voters themselves. We’re not doing enough, we’re not showing up, and in our absence and silence, the political elites set their own agenda. We trusted them too much, and they made deals with the devil to secure power… and the devil is corporate interests.
Since coming to that realization, I’ve been working on a plan to atone for my sin of apathy. In seeking answers to the second question (what do we do now?), I have written an Action Plan for Progressive Americans. The steps may seem simple, but it is the beginning of a lifelong commitment to showing and being the change I want to see.
I’m starting on my own journey of living this action plan as well: I will soon be voted in as a Precinct Committee Person for the Multnomah County Democratic Party, my first official position and likely the beginning of a career of volunteerism for political causes (don’t expect me to run for office ever — as an atheist with a checkered past, I probably couldn’t get elected in an uncontested race).
And now, I’m inviting you to join me on this journey. For details, read the action plan linked above, but the basic plan is this: show up, learn the system, change the platform (from the corporate friendly neoliberalism to a truly populist progressive agenda), lobby your elected officials, and win elections (including running for office yourself, if you can’t find a candidate to support). Democracy only works well when the citizens are well-informed and deeply engaged, so now is the time to engage.
Corporate and moneyed interests gave us the neoliberal platform upon which the Democratic Party has operated since the days of Carter, and in order to replace that platform with a truly populist progressive one, we have to show up en masse and refuse to be ignored.
If you share my values, and honestly even if you don’t, I sincerely hope you will read my action plan and be inspired to engage in dialogue, engage in politics, engage in our society on a deeper level. If you think the system is corrupt, broken or stuck, you’re not alone. But instead of complaining, recognize that it is all invented (there is nothing natural or pre-ordained about government), and get to work inventing something better.
We need a movement, and the movement needs you, so get off your couch, get off Facebook, show up to the meeting, speak out and change things for the better… because if you don’t, no one else will. And if we all do this, then we can really make some positive change together.
(This is a companion piece to my Kindling.xyz blog.)