YDATL Blog NOTE: The opinions expressed by our individual bloggers are their own, and not necessarily those of Young Democrats of Atlanta.
Monday, March 20, 2006
We are the champions!
Indulge me for just a minute while I make a short digression. I’m not in the best of moods today. This time of year is either incredibly sweet or a disappointing letdown. Yesterday, it was the letdown. I grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where, for those of you not in the know, basketball is religion. Our creed is simple: Love UNC, hate Duke. All great rivalries make perfect sense to their adherents and strike outsiders as utter madness so I won’t bother to explain this one too much. Simply put, as the country’s oldest public university, UNC stands for all that is good about community and the common welfare. Duke is the private university that symbolizes privilege, wealth, and class superiority. This weekend, UNC was upset by the now-loathsome George Mason. Duke will advance to the Sweet 16.
It’s fun hating Duke but it can be hard work. They seem to win all the time. Seriously, when do they get an off year? As I sat drinking my beer watching the sad faces of the UNC players I wondered what it was like to be a Duke fan. It must be something to dominate consistently, to crush the opposition game after game. Of course there’s the downside of having to worship the devil and devour your own young, but all those victories must instill a person with confidence and optimism.
As I drift deeper and deeper into self pity I think about how similar being a UNC fan is to being a Democrat except that UNC wins more and has better players. Garrison Keillor had an idea similar to my team switching plan. Why not just become a Republican? Think how easy it would make life. Instead of all this fretting about the environment, gentrification or immigration I could be celebrating the wonders of market forces and the march of freedom across the globe. I could drive guilt-free by the public schools or homeless shelters shouting “sucks to be you!” out my window. I could also rest easy as my president’s poll numbers sink to abysmal levels knowing that he has already completed a massive transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich, stacked the Supreme Court, and launched an open ended war against an abstract concept that will keep the military-industrial complex fat and happy for the foreseeable future. All this and he has three more years left. Besides, the Democrats will find a way to fuck up the midterm elections somehow. Republicans have nothing to worry about. It’s good to be a winner!
Being a Democrat is even harder than being a UNC fan. It means that I care about the political process and it means that I have to spend time trying to engage people’s attention so that they care about it too. Sometimes that’s successful. Other times I encounter this kind of awkward discomfort like I’m trying to sell knock-off watches or trying to wheedle them into going to church with me instead of attempting to have a candid discussion about our representative government. “I vote the person not the party,” these types tell me.
One woman sitting next to me at a work dinner told me she couldn’t vote for Kerry because Teresa was so awful. “I mean, did you see the way she treated the Edwards children when they were campaigning?” I thanked her for this new perspective. Now when I wring my hands about W I can comfort myself by thinking how gentle and polite Laura is. She’s just so unobjectionable.
Voting the person, not the party will never get us national health care or a coherent foreign policy, but it will ensure that we don’t have to put up with anyone dreadfully dull like Al Gore or John Kerry. As we poison ourselves and rob the next generation’s wealth we can at least enjoy a president who is a good dancer or a snappy dresser.
And now I realize it. While being a member of an irrelevant, perennially losing political party like the Democrats is a bummer, it’s probably nowhere near as bad as being a Democratic politician who actually has to lead the irrelevant, perennially losing political party. Poor schmucks. I wonder how they get up and go to work every day. They actually have to represent people who make decisions about their jobs based on whims and try and defend against ever kookier schemes from the right. The media becomes evermore disdainful and some new book is coming out every month with a new idea for Democrat’s salvation. I can just see these guys getting ready for another day of despair and derision: “Stay strong on defense; talk about Jesus; act like someone you’d want to have a beer with; and don’t think of an elephant.”
I actually have a point somewhere in this jeremiad of a blog entry. I guess it’s that I would like to vote the person too. I want Barak Obama and Howard Dean to sweep in and save us all from pathetic loserdom. As long as we’re fantasizing – Jed Bartlett and Bono would be just fine too.
But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Don’t get me wrong – it might (well not the Jed Barlett part). We need good, charismatic leaders and hoping for them won’t hurt. But I don’t know that it helps. I really don’t know why Hillary decided it was a good idea to come out against abortion and for capital punishment. Or why the Dems chose the weird guy with the eyebrows to give our response after the State of the Union address. I’m sure some consultant or focus group or think tank keeps telling our poor, tired leaders that it’s a good idea to act the way they act. But the bottom line is that this is who we’re stuck with.
I vote the party because I don’t actually know these people. The chances of us hanging out at a bar together are extraordinarily slim. I do know that I want good schools for all kids and clean water and a safety net so that people who fall on hard times don’t go hungry. And that’s what the Democratic Party is about. We’re not perfect and we’re very tired right now, but no one else is going to do it.
I don’t know when they’re going to do it. And I can’t really do that much to give them an extra doses of courage or integrity. It’s like basketball. None of my drinking, shouting, praying or swearing has any effect on the UNC players’ ability to play well. It’s very frustrating. But, as any Tarheel would tell you, being a fan is not just about winning it all and celebrating at the victory party – though that is sweet. It’s about something beautiful and exciting that brings out the best in these young players and I get to watch it and be a part of it.
Being a Democrat is not about winning it all – though that is sweet. It’s about a way of life oriented towards the well being of the community. Let’s take a tip from Ghandi and begin to be the change we want to see in the world. Our leaders may seem to be out of ideas but we can still strive to make our neighborhoods, cities and state a place that welcomes all people – a place that provides good schools, clean water and a livable wage.
We can also do our best to build up our leaders – give them cookies, hugs and thank you notes when they defy expectation and do something wonderful and courageous. Come to think of it, cookies and hugs all around and also a tequila shot to wash down the cookies. It can be tough to care and to lose and to see no end in sight. But no one is going to save us. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We have to start acting like champions.