I’ve been reflecting the last couple of days on a change in me that happened last week. I haven’t heard anyone talk about this kind of experience yet, so I’d like to share a little about my journey the last couple of years to explain it.
It all started in 2003 when I jumped head first into the Howard Dean campaign. I think I’d been waiting all my life for a national figure to come along who would embody the famous words of JFK: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. I wasn’t necessarily sold on Dean’s policies or his campaign persona. But his theme of “You have the power” was just what I’d been waiting to hear. And I watched the campaign live that out every day. For example, folks would talk on the Dean blog and give the campaign advice. The next few days, you’d see that advice being implemented. When I was asked to lead a meet-up, it was made clear that the campaign would provide information and materials, but that it was MY meet-up and we could use the time however we thought was best. I’d never seen a campaign like it before – not even Paul Wellstone’s.
Some people might disagree with this, but in the end, I watched the Democratic Party establishment and the media take Dean down. And I never got over it. Many of us talk about our disappointment in the party after the 06 elections. My hopes were shattered long before that in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses four years ago. In the end I voted for Kerry, but just couldn’t find it in my heart to do any more than that.
The narrative that took hold in me as a result of all this was that our democracy was dead. It looked to me like the “establishemt” (or, as budhy would say, the PTB), choose our candidates, created the narrative and then it was all over but the inaugural. And in the lead-up to the 08 campaign, it looked like the “chosen ones” were Clinton and Guliani.
The results of the Iowa caucuses last week shattered that narrative – in both parties. So now I find myself thinking that maybe we do have a bit of democracy left in this country after all.
Now, for some qualifications. I’m not saying any of this in support of a particular candidate. I still don’t know who I’ll vote for when our caucuses arrive on February 5th. The question for me is more about how open the process is to the American people rather than the exact outcome.
Secondly, the primaries aren’t over yet. The establishment still has time to find some ways to change the direction things seem to be going. And you can bet that I’ll be keeping an eye on that.
Thirdly, I’m still convinced that no matter who wins the primaries or the presidency, the likelyhood that those in elected office can/will make the changes necessary to turn this country around are pretty slim.
But, for the first time in four years, I have a flicker of hope in that thing we call democracy again. And it feels good.