Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Present at the Creation, Again

I had a marvelous experience of déjà vu tonight. I attended my first Meetup since having left the Howard Dean campaign in Vermont a little over a year ago. And wow, was it inspiring. A room full of activists sharing common cause is manna for the soul.

All over the country tonight, people from both Democracy for America (sprung from the original Dean for America campaign) and from True Majority, the group run by Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, came together in pubs and restaurants, community centers and homes across America, to discuss an action plan to combat the president's plan to dismantle Social Security.

My group met in a backroom of a little restaurant on the "westside" here in Los Angeles to strategize. The goal? Plan and publicize meetings with our respective Congresspeople to encourage them to oppose Bush's plan to privatize social security.

Democracy for America had sent along DVDs to be played during the meeting. I was thrilled to see Jim Dean, who I had once sat next to at a meeting about Connecticut, where Jim ran his brother's state campaign. (Presidential elections are not national in scope - they are a conglomerate of state organizations, each battling the other for priority and resources. Not ideal, but without public financing, there you go.) And at the end, of course, there was Howard, bigger than life, flashing that charming self-deprecating grin, and telling us, essentially, that we still have the power.

I flashed back to all the long hours, the stepping over sleeping bodies to get to my desk in the morning (a fact which was noted in a New York Times piece by a freelancer who slept on the floor with them, on occasion), the flights to Iowa and the drives to New Hampshire, the CNN bus, the paucity of press at the early events and the masses of cameras towards the end, the big egos but bigger hearts of co-workers, and mostly, the sheer enthusiasm - that feeling we were all participating in something really special. Something that really could change America.

I was a bit of a skeptic to all the enthusiasm, even as I basked in it. I had been down that road before. In 1992, I worked on Jerry Brown's presidential campaign out of the national headquarters in Santa Monica, California. That too was a heady trip. People with vision and passion, grueling but rewarding hours, and a charismatic leader who told us we weren't just running a campaign, we were starting a movement to "Take Back America." (Deaniacs, Brown had that line first. I have that on a 1992 t-shirt I've never thrown away to prove it.) But when the Brown campaign ended, the dream came to an abrupt halt. There was a token effort at starting a group called "We the People" that never really did anything. It was the most devastating experience of my life. All that work, for nothing. Or so it seemed.

I'd like to think now, in retrospect, seeds had been planted. And when Dean came along, 12 years later, spraying cleansing water all over that ground, the dormant seeds drank and sprouted and raised new faces to the sun. And once above ground, we weren't going back into our seedpods again.

So many of the people running for public office in the last year became inspired because of the Dean campaign. This time, it was no lie. This time, the movement really is continuing. When 50 people turn out in a little corner of the Southland on a weeknight for something besides an audition, that's really something. When 500,000 people turn out all over the country, that's really something else!

I feel so proud to have been part of Dean for America. It feels good to be back in the saddle with Democracy for America, raising my hand to volunteer once again. It feels good to be around so many people who still believe they can make the world a better place for all. It feels good to dare to hope, after such a long dark period.

Sure. I'll help. What do you need?


Post a Comment

<< Home