Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Non-Partisan Political Triumph

Forgot who won.  That's for other people to dissect.  And, sure, I was happy with last night's election results and that may have an impact on how positive I'm feeling as I write this.  But I don't think so.  Because I'm thinking beyond political parties.

Last night was one of the most satisfying nights of my life for a different reason:  because the good guys won. No, no, no, I'm not talking about the Democrats.  I'm talking about you, whoever you are.  And me.  We get to be the good guys on this by the simple virtue of being ordinary, average citizens.

If you waffle, as I do, between the inherent goodness in people and the evils that drive our desires, or between the power of an individual to make a difference, especially in face of large, overwhelming forces and the pointlessness of trying, then let us both celebrate.

Because last night the people, the individuals won.  And they beat money.  I didn't think it could happen.

Forget who won.  Think about who didn't--wealthy people and groups with the legal authority to use unchecked amounts of money to influence elections.

When the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling in late 2009, which led to the rise of the Super-PACs, I could not have been more discouraged, convinced as I was that it was a terrible decision that would change the political landscape forever for the worse.  It was the decision that led fairly-new President Obama to scold the Justices sitting in front of him as he delivered his first State of the Union address.  It was the evil he tried to avoid until, as political thinking dictates, the other side was doing it so he had to as well, but he entered the Super-PAC arena late, so he was both financially outgunned and ethically compromised.  And it seemed like he might not be able to recover from that.

Forget who won.  If you want to think better about your country and your fellow citizens, remind yourself of this:  that average citizens became part of a "ground game" that overwhelmed the Super-PAC ads that ran one after another after another after another in the swing states.

I entered the fray briefly.  The night before the election, I got a text from the Obama campaign asking me to make one phone call to a person in a swing state, reminding him to vote and seeing if he had any questions as to where his voting station was, etc.  All I had to do was to text "CALL" back to the same number.  So I did.  And I waited.  And waited.  I texted again.  And again.  I was convinced that there was something wrong with the plan.  About an hour later, I finally got texted back with the phone number for "Angel" in Florida.  I called, but quickly found out that the number had been disconnected.  But having made the one call, I had the chance to make another one, if I wanted to.  So I texted "CALL" again.  And waited and waited.  While I was waiting around and doing something else, I finally had the epiphany:  the system was not broken; instead it was working perfectly, in fact, so perfectly that I was having to wait so long to get a name to call because so many other volunteers were calling.  That was when I got the first inkling that Obama might win.

What I didn't realize until Election Night was how effective that "ground game" was.  A ground game is little more than people like me and you.  And people like us did some amazing things.  When the Super-PACS swallowed their morals and decided that it was more important to get a sleazy Republican like Todd Akin elected than to allow a Democrat to win, they began pouring money into his campaign, even though Missouri state Republicans had distanced themselves from Akin, perhaps for their own political survival.  But it didn't work, any more than it did in the presidential race.

The Super-PACs bought the television time with their millions and millions and millions, but that couldn't overcome regular people looking past those ads and making their own decisions and helping each other get to polling stations and supporting each other once they got there.

People like us got so pissed off by efforts to suppress their ability to vote that they stood in lines for hour after hour.  Forget who won.  Just know that despite the larger forces aligned against them, people would not be denied one of their basic rights.  Stay in line, and you get to fulfill that right, even if it takes far into the night, long after the polls have closed.

This is a non-partisan political discussion.  One side or the other doesn't have a corner on the market of dirty election tricks or excessive campaign spending.  Just know that this time, none of those tactics or dollars could overwhelm the American people's desire to be proactive in demonstrating their citizenship.  Citizens united indeed.


troutking said...

Great post, Bob! I hope the Congress gets the message. We're tired of the bickering. Work together. Get things done. We don't want big government or small government. We want smart government that works when it needs to act and lets markets work and people live freely when it doesn't. Easier said than done, but I had a little spring in my step today 'cause I believe in a Promised Land/Land of Hope and Dreams/We Take Care of Our Own/Long Walk Home/Where the Bands Are/Cynthia.

troutking said...

Also, let's be citizens united to kick out Pelosi, Reid, Boehner, McConnell and Cantor and get some people in there who can lead, cooperate and find common ground!

rodle said...

Bob 2014!