This was originally posted January 21, 2012.
Watching the South Carolina Republican primary results tonight brought back warm memories of the 2008 South Carolina Democratic primary.
I was a voter protection lawyer for the Obama campaign assigned to a majority-black rural area southeast of Columbia. The voters were proud of their role in helping to elect America’s first black President.
After the polls closed, we returned to Columbia in time to be present for Sen. Obama’s victory speech. Later that evening, one of my best friends called to read me Caroline Kennedy’s op-ed in the NYTimes (“A President Like My Father“), which moved me to tears. I was 10 years old when her father died, and I’ll always remember her as the little girl standing at attention while her father’s funeral procession passed. It was one of those moments that made me feel that what we were doing was connected to history.
It’s been one year since the Iowa caucus. Everyone who was there has a story – this is mine.
Buchanan County was the “sister city” for the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Independence (population 6,000) is the county seat. Volunteers from our area had been there many times, beginning in September. Four of us were assigned to Buchanan County for the week leading up to the caucus. Audie Schmidt, the Obama campaign staff organizer for the county, decided I should go to the small towns in the northeast corner of the county – Winthrop (pop. 772), Lamont (pop. 503), Aurora (pop. 194), and Stanley (pop. 128). I went to each town 2 or 3 times and visited farmers in between the towns. The temperature hovered around zero, and I got stuck in a snowbank and had to be towed out. In Stanley, I saw a pet goat running behind a pickup truck.
Michelle Obama spoke in Independence on New Year’s Day. She told how reluctant she was when Barack said he wanted to run for President, but then she realized that was her fear, cynicism and selfishness talking and that she had to give hope a chance. It was the most moving I’ve ever heard her speak. (I passed along a greeting from Michelle’s aunt and uncle, who I’d met in a bar in Cedar Rapids on New Year’s Eve.)
In Lamont, I found a number of supporters. Audie said, “Get out — I’ve been trying to get something going there for 6 months!” I recruited a precinct captain, a 19-year old woman who had never voted and who needed to register at the caucus. She was so proud to be asked. She asked me to give her the blue book of Obama’s positions so she could answer her neighbors’ questions.
On caucus night, I hosted a pizza party for high school seniors at East Buchanan High School in Winthrop. I told them this election was about their future. I then left for the Lamont caucus.
There were 40 voters in the caucus, almost double the usual. On the first vote, it was Clinton 13., Obama 12, Edwards 12, Richardson 3. Two of the Richardson voters came over to Obama, but the third one was skeptical. I explained Obama’s positions on various issues, but what really brought him over was when one of our supporters (who had taught the voter in school) showed him Andrew Sullivan’s article, which had just appeared in the Atlantic. The final vote was Obama 15, Clinton 13, Edwards 12, so Obama got 2 of the 4 delegates from Lamont.
Throughout our time there, the people of Iowa were wonderful to us. They were patient, openminded and thoughtful, and they took their responsibility seriously. They gave Barack Obama a chance to persuade them, at a time when the mainstream media and conventional wisdom didn’t think he had a chance. Like Michelle Obama, they let hope triumph over fear and cynicism, which have ruled our politics for more than the past 8 years. As Michelle said, if we’d lost Iowa it all would have been “just a dream.” Instead, Iowa led our country out of its long nightmare into an era of hope.
The Iowa caucus was how politics should be, but rarely is. We stayed true to the campaign’s motto of “Respect, Empower, Include.” Let’s keep that spirit alive as long as we’re alive. Like the old Kennedy supporters, we need to be the keepers of the flame, the spirit that animated the Obama campaign in Iowa and throughout the year.
This was originally posted July 4, 2018.
Political pundits have been saying that Democrats lack a “message.” This is a Republican talking point, but too many Democrats and progressives repeat it. If it means that Democrats don’t deliver simplistic, dishonest, manipulative talking points, we plead guilty. But if it means that Democrats don’t make it clear that they stand for what most Americans believe, it’s nonsense. Review this comparison of the two parties. Which one speaks for you?
|THE DEMOCRATIC MESSAGE:||THE OTHER PARTY’S MESSAGE:|
|A woman has the right to control her body||Women’s rights to birth control and abortion should be restricted by legislators, most of whom are men|
|We must act now to limit the effects of climate change||Deny climate change, refuse to make any efforts to combat it|
|We can and should provide health care for every American at a reasonable cost||Cut funding for health care, leaving only those who can afford to pay insured|
|Every child has the right to an excellent public education||Cut funding for public schools, favor private schools for those who can afford them|
|We can reduce gun violence without abridging the rights of law-abiding people||The Second Amendment requires that we let anyone have as many lethal weapons as he or she wants|
|We should treat immigrants with courtesy and respect||Treat immigrants as enemies and criminals, separate children from their parents|
|Every citizen should be able to vote||Impose restrictions to prevent poor and minority voters from voting|
|Working people have the right to organize to improve their working conditions||Destroy or diminish unions’ ability to help workers|
|America works best when it works for everyone, not just the rich and powerful||Giant tax breaks for the rich, higher taxes and fewer benefits for working people|
|We should work with our allies and negotiate with our adversaries to ensure peace||Give in to Russia and North Korea while disrespecting our allies|
|Welcome progress||Fan the flames of fear|
|President Obama made us proud to be Americans||Donald Trump is an embarrassment to most Americans, including many Republicans|
This was originally posted on October 8, 2013.
The New York Times published an extensively-researched article about the “blueprint for defunding Obamacare” created “shortly after President Obama started his second term.” The plan was devised by the usual right wing conspirators: Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, the Club for Growth, and Heritage Action. Where did the money come from? Charles and David Koch, through one of their front groups, spent more than $200 million on this sinister effort.
When Hillary Clinton said there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” people said she was exaggerating. We now know she was right.
The shame is that all this money and suffering is being caused to prevent Americans from getting affordable health care.