Wednesday, October 29, 2008
VOTE FIRST. KEEP FIGHTING.
Let's talk about what happens AFTER election day.
On November 5, millions of Americans and millions more around the world will be rejoicing, breathing great sighs of relief, and hanging their heads in disappointment. We will experience all of these, because regardless of whether the majority chooses Obama - which would represent an important step forward - many crucial initiatives and propositions on the ballot in various states will profoundly impact people's lives, their marriages, transportation, schools, treatment programs and incarceration, and all the others you have heard about. Progressive forces will likely not all win on all of these.
Regardless of whether the majority chooses Obama, we need to keep working, because no president is ever solely responsible – or even chiefly responsible – for positive social change. The last thing we need now is a re-run of the Clinton era, when many liberals were relived that the twelve years of Reagan and Bush I were finally over, the far right gathered its strength, and we allowed the Clinton Administration to go along with – and even sponsor – reactionary legislation that targeted immigrants, scapegoated families struggling to get by on welfare, accelerated corporate media consolidation, and created NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, for example.
What is the change that Obama speaks of? We have heard some of his policy proposals, but what actually comes out of his office will be determined largely by what is made possible by the work of progressive organizations. The change that is Obama's motto and that we so intensely long for will only come with the committed effort of a society organized, of people personally involved at the workplace, on campus, in the neighborhood, for specific issues and in coalition, within the demographic groups we belong to, and also reaching across the lines that separate us.
I just came from a phone bank against Proposition 8, which would eliminate the right to marry for same-sex couples in California. I will volunteer a few hours on election day for "Get Out The Vote" activities with PUEBLO, a local organization that builds power and leadership among low-income people. Please, do what you can in the coming days. Vote, of course. But also talk courageously with friends and family about the key issues. Volunteer – work a phone bank, give someone a ride to the polls. (If you don't know how to get started, check out moveon.org. Or you must know at least one activist. Ask them.) Make another donation, even if you can't afford it.
And the day after election day, please, stay involved. The day after that, keep fighting. And the day after that, and the day after that, and all the days to come. We need you.
reprinted Nov. 3, 2008, in the UCSB Daily Nexus