In spite of our history of Republican governors, Massachusetts is one of those states that can always be counted on to vote Democratic in the national elections. That has freed up many of us up to "vote our consciences" without fear of jinxing the Democratic candidate, but has also sometimes had an enervating effect on progressives using the electoral system to organize. I did see that start to change during the Deval Patrick campaign. The opportunity to have a Black governor was too good for many to pass up.
Through the years I've mostly voted Democratic, but I can't say I've been a great Democrat-- haven't joined ward committees and have rarely worked on a campaign. One exception was the Jesse Jackson campaign of 1984. I was inspired by the Jackson of 1984. By volunteering for his campaign, I was taken under the wing of some of Springfield's most dedicated and political African-American leaders-- then State Rep. Ray Jordan, E. Henry Twiggs, Candace Lopes, to name a few-- and the contacts I made there have lasted 25 years. I also learned the basic skills of looking up numbers in reverse directories, phonebanking, door to door work and stand-outs. I know that the Internet has added to a campaign organizer's toolbox, but still, nothing beats the basics. I wish some of my progressive friends could bring themselves to roll up their sleeves and labor with the on-the-ground Democrats.
Twenty-five years later I am far less likely to be idealistic about any candidate because the options for a political platform in the United States are very narrow and defined by the parameters of capitalism and Christianity. Unlike most other democracies, we have two major parties only, and while I agree there's a difference between them, it's the difference between one and three on a scale of ten. I will never forget sitting in a homeless shelter lunchroom watching Bill Clinton be inaugurated on the TV, when all of us expected him to include ending homelessness in his address, and the slow slumping of shoulders when homeless people were ignored yet again.
I am a faithful voter, however, because of what every organizer knows: Use what you've got to get what you need.
Within this framework, the candidacy of Barack Obama is so extraordinary that for months it barely seemed real to me. If truth be told, I still find it difficult to believe that the U.S. is ready to elect a Black man to the Presidency. but I'm starting to think I'm wrong. I want to be proud of my country. If Barack is elected, it'll be one of those too-rare moments when we can say to each other, Well, I guess the struggle is worth it after all.
So here's my short list of reasons I'm voting for Barack Obama.
Save the environment, save the world. I won't need to worry about policy decisions that make things worse and can expect some positive movement. (Nuclear energy and clean coal be damned.)
Jobs, jobs, jobs. I'm tired of seeing people work and struggle to get by . I'm tired of seeing young people grow up not knowing the value of work. My first jobs out of high school were in factories, making things, and relatively speaking, they were still probably the best-paying jobs I've ever had. Moving toward energy independence could almost be like a national jobs program.
Peace and civil rights. I'm not a pacifist (maybe in my next life) but I believe war should be such a last resort as to make it nearly impossible. I doubt Barack Obama will find it necessary to start any new wars and he'll help us get out of the ones we're in.
So I'm off to the polls then home for a long night in front of the TV with my sister and her husband and a six-pack of beer (sorry, Sarah Palin). Michaelann the organizer is voting Obama.
(BTW, it's time for Blogger to stop underlining Barack Obama as if it's a misspelled word!)