STAFF & GUEST BLOG

’08 Elections: Our Work Does Not End With a Campaign

November 6th, 2009, byMARTA EVRY

This post was first published at VeniceforChange.com.

I have a tiny, 750 square-foot house. But I’ve somehow made room for one of those enormous Obama “Hope” posters. You know the one. You’ve seen it a million times. This one sits framed in my kitchen. On it are the signatures of many of the volunteers I worked with on the Obama campaign last year.

Every day I am reminded of the miracle we pulled off. Every day I’m reminded how, in our congressional district alone (CA-36), 1,500 volunteers made over 600,000 phone calls to swing states all over the country, and sent hundreds of volunteers to Nevada and New Mexico to get out the vote and turn those states blue.

Every day I am reminded that change can only happen when citizens stand together and take ownership of their government, their country, their communities and themselves. Every day I am reminded that our work does not end with a campaign, but rather begins with a new
president, a new government, and a new day.

Republicans have taken the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey. Yet in NY-23, Democrat Bill Owens beat out Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. And Democrat John Garamendi easily defeated Republican David Harmer in CA-10 by running as a staunch progressive in what had previously been considered a moderate Democratic district.

And in a heartbreaking reminder of Proposition 8 in California, gay Americans were again denied their rights – this time in Maine.

Every day I am reminded that our work does not end with a campaign.

Our president inherited a series of crises from one of the most venal and incompetent administrations our country has ever known. It is all he and his administration can do to keep our country from sinking into another Great Depression or stumbling into World War III.

What’s left of the Republican Party is becoming the American Taliban right before our eyes while conservative Democrats threaten to derail health care legislation at every turn.

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, and we are poised to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan. My brother-in-law will be returning to Iraq for his third tour of duty this month, leaving a wife and three children behind. He joined the Army 15 years ago because when his wife became pregnant with their first son they couldn’t afford health insurance. They still can’t.

Every day I am reminded that our work does not end with a campaign.

I believe in my president. But I don’t expect him to “rescue” us. We entered into an implied contract when we helped get Barack Obama elected. We expected “change.” We expected to be respected, empowered and included. We expected him to fight, and we expected to join him in that fight.

That contract, in many ways, has only been partially fulfilled.

As way of example, I take Obama at his word when he says he believes the public option is the best way to reform our health care system. But here’s what I’ve never heard him say:

While the public option may be the best way to bring reform to our health care system, it’s not the easiest or surest road to passing health care reform through Congress – in fact, it may be the most difficult. I understand this risk and am willing to take it, because together I believe we can make this dream a reality.

Instead, I believe the president and his advisers have chosen a different path. One they hoped was less risky. One that would more likely give them a victory that’s eluded every president since Roosevelt. They chose triggers. They chose Olympia Snowe. They have, along the way, chosen to manage expectations for the public option instead of drawing a line in the sand and fighting for it. Not because they’re corrupt, or deceitful or because they don’t believe in efficacy of the public option, but because they don’t believe the system would allow it to happen.

They say politics is the art of the possible.

This is what they believe is possible.

I believe they’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy, and by doing so, have made the possible finite.

Every day I am reminded that our work does not end with a campaign.

So it’s up to us – all of us – to hold our president accountable. To support him when he needs it, but also to hold his feet to the fire when he chooses the merely possible over the audacity of hope.

We have to make sure the path against the public option, against withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, against the climate change bill, against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and against federal marriage equality is more difficult than the path for it.

This is our end of the contract. We have to understand what the issues are, and understand that merely supporting the president’s agenda may not be enough.

Every day, when I walk by my kitchen wall and see that poster and see my volunteer’s names scrawled across his face, I am reminded that our work does not end with a campaign.

We did not ask permission then and we do not need permission now.

We will be the change we seek and we will move our country towards the possibilities of the infinite.

Marta Evry is a film editor and community organizer. During the Obama presidential campaign, she worked as a Regional Field Organizer for California Congressional District 36. Her musings on the state of local and national politics can be found at www.VeniceforChange.com.

  • Linda Green

    As always, Marta, your comments are thoughtful, sensible and inspirational. And as always, I thank you for your leadership and untiring commitment to the ’cause.’

  • goodgirlroxie

    So glad your commentary is getting a little attention outside of the activist trenches.
    Another activist, Norm Solomon, recently wrote the same basic thinking in an op-ed published in our local paper, but with a different conclusion. He semi-scolded activists to close ranks with other Dems to defeat Repubs.
    There is no way the activist base is going to rally for, in Gail Collins’ words, “an unlovable guy from a deeply corrupt party into a second term,” referring to the Corzine defeat in NJ, or for “an inept candidate whose most notable claim to fame was experience in hog castration,” referring to the Dem loss in VA. Nor should we!
    Where is the activist base? We have not lapsed into disillusioned inactivity, as Solomon writes. We’re out fighting for health-care reform. Calling us advocates of a robust public option, he wants us to accept that it’s a non-essential feature of health-care reform. The fact of the matter is that most of us are advocates of a single-payer system, who already accepted that true reform ain’t gonna happen this year, and that a robust public option is the line in the sand we’ve drawn, out of concession to the health-industry strong-arming that took place over the past several months.
    Keep it up, Marta. The road you map out is the only road reform activism will take. The other road isn’t reform at all.

Last modified: May 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm