In a few days, everyone will be writing about the winners and losers in the 2006 elections and I will feel frustrated that the real stories aren’t be told. The most obvious stories will be about who was or wasn’t elected to the U.S. Congress and some Governor’s seats. Beyond that, the discussions will be about changes in the balance of power in congress and whether one party or another exceeded or failed to meet expectations.
People will talk about whether one group or another is gaining or losing power. This is already happening over at Firedoglake, where Pachacutec looks at the potential fortuntes of the DC/K Street Elites, the Grassroots Theocrats, and the Grassroots Progressives.
Meanwhile, Michael Davies, Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee tries to get people to look at State Legislative races.
With this, let me approach this from a different perspective and talk about some of the stories that aren’t being told. I think there is a problem with black and white, or perhaps red and blue thinking in American politics, and the discussions about winners and losers is misguided. To illustrate this, I am going to declare a winner in the 149th Assembly District in Connecticut. The winner is, my wife, Kim.
But, some of you might note, Kim isn’t even running this time around. True, and it is also true that when she ran in 2004, her opponent received more votes and was easily re-elected. Nonetheless, Kim won back in 2004, and with people who have been inspired by her running this year, Kim will win again.
The second winner I want to know is ‘the unknown volunteer’. If you work with campaigns, you’ve probably met her. You may even know his name. The unknown volunteer may or may not read blogs. She comes to campaign headquarters, and does whatever needs to be done. He becomes friends with the other volunteers and her life is enriched by the experience. One of the reasons the Lamont campaign and Connecticut as a whole is winning is because of the great volunteers that have been showing up at headquarters around the state. My biggest question is, how sustainable will this be? What will these people with their newly energized civic spirit do after the election? Will there be things to do, groups to be involved with?
Beyond that, I want to move towards looking at elections as part of a continuum. Will this year’s election move us closer to a government, of, by and for the people, or a government of, by and for lobbyists for large corporate interests? Will this year’s election move us closer to post broadcast politics which is more of a dialog between voters and candidates, or reinforce the ‘air game’. When I look at YouTube, I see glimmers of hope, which are countered by the massive air buys for negative ads which seem to only be making broadcasting companies better.
But perhaps the biggest question is, how will this really affect the people of our country and our world. I remember going to the No Nukes rally in New York City in 1982. It was the largest rally in New York City history. I remember leaving the rally and heading home down Second Avenue. On my way, I passed a funeral home, where I saw a hearse and a large procession leaving. For that family, the funeral was the big event of the day.
Now, twenty-four years later, nuclear weapons proliferation and U.S. energy policy are still problems. Today, and everyday, between 30 and 40 people are likely to die of cancer in New York City. It is easy to look at politics and say why bother.
Yet if we do that, extremists and corporate interests that are currently taking advantage of our political system will only expand. No, we need political change in this country, but that change needs to be about more than just who is heading down to Washington. We need to be changing the way people do politics. We need to take a play out of Dean Corp, John Edwards OneCorp or Matt Dunne’s Service is Politics.
We need to make politics an ongoing effort to make our country a better place, through not only elections, but also advocacy, service and ultimately restoring the fabric of our society.