I took the day off yesterday and after sleeping in, I watched TV for several hours around noon. Barack Obama in high definition with the voice of Brian Williams guiding me gently through the pagentry. I voted for Barack Obama as an act of electoral will in the valley of a long descent from higher peaks of democratic involvement; as an 18-year-old, I came to college a very hopeful young Democrat, working very, very hard for Al Gore, whom, unlike what others might have told you, I did NOT think was unimpressive. I LOVED Al Gore. I spent HOURS working for Al Gore as an official member of the Young Democrats -- I was so fortunate as to have been touched by Al Gore at an event once. I was so unfortunate as to be trapped after the busses stopped running in the South Side after the IBEW Hall closed so that I and my fellows had to walk back to Oakland on election night, making it there only in time to see Bush declared the victor. Yes, I still believe the 2000 election was stolen. George W. Bush was never legitimately elected in 2000 -- period.
But I picked myself up and dusted myself off and went to work for local candidates and trudged up and down snow-covered hillsides doorknocking for special elections in February that were lost by narrow margins to the sons of political good old boys. I became the president of the Young Democrats, and went off to the national convention and was so unimpressed by the way in which everyone there, all those young, supposedly grassroots and hope-filled souls schmoozing like their old man fathers in poorly chosen ties, were just wondering how working for this guy or that guy was gonna play on their resume, that I left, got a beer, and spent the rest of the day sightseeing. I quit.
In the meantime, life occurred. I had to make every single one of my adult professional decisions with only one factor weighed obessively in my mind: healthcare. I saw in the news how Democrats practiced the kind of acrimonious bipartisanship that Glenn Greenwald is always bemoaning -- "How dare you suggest to fuck me up the ass? Evil conservative bastards. Here, let me bend over. Ooo, right there." I saw my local politicians (Mayor Luke Ravenstahl) get caught in such scandals as: awarding parking lot contracts to campaign donors who weren't the highest bidders; driving Homeland Security vehicles to Toby Keith concerts; letting advertisers put up electronic billboards without zoning approval because -- yup -- they sent Christmas gifts. Et cetera. Meanwhile, the poor get poorer, the rich get richer, Crazy Jesus Freak Hate Train conductors get to host presidential debates, my life is ruined by the quest for health insurance, my family is in constant debt and no, we didn't buy an SUV or a house we couldn't afford, that's all school debt and , and yes, I have a master's degree, and yes, I'm a receptionist; there's also credit card debt because yes, it took my lawyer husband almost a year to find a job. Thanks America.
And many have told me that Obama is different, but I haven't seen much evidence of that other than him telling me over and over. I WAS pleased to vote for a person I believe to be intelligent and articulate; he WILL be better than our last dictator. But it turns out that I've become a radical leftist, at least as measured against America's political spectrum, and I'm just not convinced Obama's actually going to redistribute wealth and ensure civil liberties and work for real equality the way his opponent seemed afraid he would. The day's not over, but he hasn't repealed DOMA yet. The troops are not on their way home. The Israeli rockets still have painted-over American flags on them. The Endangered Species Act is still hollowed out. Agribusiness stll poisons the land. Likely, all of this will remain as it is.
Don't get me wrong: it's a great day for America, and seeing the reactions on the faces of Black Americans yesterday was genuinely moving. We haven't eliminated the problems of racism in America -- far from it -- but a Black president is a meaningful and joyful thing.
But oh, I wish I could have felt the same way as all those people on the mall! The tears, the real, real conviction that this man is going to make things better. I just ... I'm too much of a cynic. Too much of a pessimist. I'm not going to get healthcare. Republicans and Democrats are in the pocket of Big Insurance, just like they're in the pocket of every industry out there trying to kill us or at least, trying to prevent us from helping each other because it will mean they lose money.
But I'm jealous. I wish I was 18 again.