In 1986, when I was eighteen, I rolled out of my college freshman room at 4 am on a quite cold November morning. I was off with a bunch of other idealistic peace activists to put flyers on doors all over Eugene for Peter DeFazio. By that point, this schedule was somewhat familiar – I had been working for him for weeks, and when he won, I was so very happy. Why did I do that? Well, I had seen him speak, and he inspired me. I knew what he stood for and I knew he would make a significant difference when elected. I was right.
Barack Obama inspires me in the same way.
Years later, I woke up at another early hour to head downtown San Francisco to hear Patricia Ireland, President of NOW, speak. Years later, I would recall that speech when I sat across from her in a job interview. I spent the next years working my fingers to the bone for the organization. Why? I was inspired. Her vision, her plans for the future of feminism, made me happy to work so hard for that organization.
Barack Obama inspires me, again, in the same way.
Yeah. So what? Well, in this election season there has been a lot of talk, derisive talk, about inspiration. Folks talk about it as though inspiring people was shallow, akin to reading the latest news about Britney Spears or gloating about your new car stereo. They talk about it as though inspiration is not a pragmatic political tool.
Perhaps more than any election in recent memory, inspiration is one of the most important tools for the Democratic nominee. Why? Well, I’ve encountered many Democrats who do not believe that John McCain is like George W. Bush, which is to say that they don’t believe that he crawled, half-formed, from some Anti-Christ sludge. They actually don’t think he’s that bad of a guy. He’s not so bad as to make them leave their homes on a rainy night to phone bank or pound the pavement on a weekend.
So, for many Democrats, it’s going to have to be about who they’re working for, not who they’re working against. It’s going to have to be about who is going to make the eighteen year olds (and now, the forty year olds) leave their warm rooms and fight for change.
Of course, the nominee can’t be about inspiration alone. Barack Obama also has the substance, having authored or co-sponsored bills in the Senate that, among other things, fight poverty, improve government ethics, increase access to healthcare, and protect the environment. Earlier this month, in the middle of his election campaign, he also helped ensure the passage of the Global Poverty Act which will force the president to develop a comprehensive plan to address poverty around the globe. And of course, he has shown the wisdom to fight against the war from the beginning.
That’s enough to make me get up at 4 am all over again.
Filed under: Obama