Happy election eve...
I realize that I have been away for quite some time. I have not sent anything nor updated my web blog in a while. For that I apologize, as I have been attending to personal matters and molding my son to become a great Democratic leader (this part is a joke.) You know why I am here emailing you today. It should not be a surprise. This week will be extraordinary in terms of politics - politics that has taken a rather personal turn these last six years. Those who believe that there is no connection between national politics and their local lives need to take a ride to the Ninth Ward in New Orleans or to a little place in Ohio called Brook Park. Then come and tell me that it does not matter. There comes a time in our lives when making a change matters, no matter how small or painful. What matters is that at this moment we have the opportunity to be that change - to alter the direction that our country is going - to take a breath and consider a different way. It may not be the perfect way, but Democracy was never meant to be perfect. The founders knew it was to evolve. It had to in order to survive. And, right now that abstract notion could not be more important.
The BushCo Republicans have given us nothing but war, scandal, ineptitude and arrogance. They have shown us fear, deception, hypocrisy, and humiliation. They choose not to understand and all but silenced any dissenting or moderate voice in their own party. It is pathetic, disgraceful, and criminal. Why so harsh? Because many people have died and suffered on their watch. No conspiracy theories, debates, material witnesses are needed... None. The few remaining Moderates and Pragmatics left on the Right are burned, confused, and starting to run away. The evidence is plain. Look at the Republican candidates in your district, especially the incumbents. They are breaking ranks from the devastation BushCo has laid on the American landscape. They are trying to salvage what is left, what institution they swore to protect. But, it is too late. Americans are visibly upset and demand that we try a different path. Tomorrow, we make that demand a reality. Not the BushCo "reality" we have been living for six years. Reality is a on the front lines in Iraq, on the ground in New Orleans, on the border in San Diego, factory towns in Ohio... These are where the "values" are, not some Karl Rovian talking points memo - some numbers game or hanky-panky in vote-counting.
Tomorrow is the most important day of my future - my family's future. I will be damned to let this corrupt Congress and Administration rob my son's future of security, economy, values, faith, you name it. I am sick of it. This is not a Red State-Blue State issue any more. This is our issue. The debacle in Iraq has cost us almost 3000 American lives and 100,000s of thousands of Iraqi lives. They are in the middle of a civil war there - slaughtering each in a conflict that has lasted since well before our lifetimes. All the while, Iran and North Korea go unchecked, Israel carpet bombs the Lebanese, and Sudanese are dying everyday. And this is just our foreign policy. Which brings me back to the things that matter to us right now... Domestically, we are a train wreck. Any fiscal conservative will tell you that. Any environmentalist, climatologist, or weatherman will tell you we have a problem with global warming. Al Gore just presented it to you in a passionate, non-partisan- why should I worry about my political career way. Any day laborer, truck-driver, returning-or-between tours of duty troop will tell you why low unemployment numbers mean nothing to them. Wal-Mart doesn't pay the bills. The Dixie Chicks will tell why free-speech has its consequences. And Jack Abramoff will tell you where to put your money. Does America want to be this way? Are we better off now than we were then? It is not a relative question anymore. Period.
Do the Democrats have all the answers? No and we should not expect them to have these answers. But we have to start somewhere. Why should the Dems take back the Congress? One word - oversight. Two more - checks & balances. We Americans know when the powerful get too powerful - greedy and aloof. Are our memories too short? Or do we forget as a comfortable convenience? The Dems in power represents a first step in a direction away from our current path. It is a path Americans no longer can afford - in lives. The Dems don't always agree on everything, but rest assured, at least they will bring back debate and thought. Not tactics, party-over-people shenanigans, middle of the night bills, one-sided talks, closed-door "constitutional" sessions, 1000s of earmarks on one bill, rule-changes as they go along, signing statements, golf-junkets in Scotland using donations from Native American tribes...need I say more?
It is time for us to take a breath. To reflect. Pause. Understand where we are and say stop - this is not who we are! We are America. We do not condone torture, indefinite detention, eavesdropping, loss of habeas-corpus. We are not "them." We do not do what "they" do. We are above that. We don't "fight them over there so they don't fight us here." What does that even mean? Why do I live in America? My co-worker blurts out a Coming To America line every once in a while (in Zumundan accent) - "God Bless America, what a beautiful country." Oh, it seems so trivial, not to mention rather funny even now after all these years. But, it gets me to thinking - it is a beautiful country, a free country - one of choice, hopes, aspirations, and second chances. Why have so many risked their lives to come here - to escape their repressive regimes? To have one chance, unobstructed by control from the "state." We do not torture. We choose to accept that all people or innocent until proven guilty. We are allowed to worship our Gods freely. We live our way. We are kind and giving. We help other less fortunate. Be believe in fairness and equality. We deplore violence. Education is a right. Heath and safety are priorities. We do not live in fear. We can change.
And that's what I am talking about. Change. Now is the time. So vote and tell your friends to vote. And their friends. And their friends. Talk to you neighbors. The postal worker. The cashiers. Understand their worries and values. Commiserate. Don't tell who to vote for. Show them what makes sense. Sincerity, understanding, drive to make things right for the most people. That is what politics is about. Send the message to all politicians that it is time to go to work or take a hike. Then go to the polls, help those who need assistance. Observe. Be alert. Assure those that their votes will count. The more of us who go to the polls, the greater the margin, the less likely the steal. Then stand your ground. The fight will only begin on Election Day. What will follow will determine who "gets" the votes. It is sad to think that we must be this vigilant in this day and age. But, disenfranchisement happens in a more subtle way today. It will be difficult. It could get ugly. Don't back down. Not now. Some simple rules of engagement (some of you may already know):
When voting (if you have not voted absentee):
1. Bring photo ID.
If you or anybody does not have this, please note or tell them that they CANNOT be denied to vote. Request a "provisional" ballot. This ballot may or may not be counted. You must return with ID in order for it to go in the rolls. Make sure that you are told by a supervising poll-worker how much time you have to produce this ID. If a supervisor is not available, have the poll-worker that is assisting you to contact the Board of Elections. This sounds like a lot, but it matters.
2. Vote on a paper ballot wherever possible.
Ask what is available and what the rules are. Some states allow voting on paper or electronically. It is more complicated and longer, but paper is better. All electronic voting machine companies are owned by Republican or heavy Republican donors - Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, and others (see www.blackboxvoting.com for details). Some optical scanners, which tally paper ballots are owned by Diebold, but are much harder to rig. They can throw out votes for markings not recognized, so please read the ballot carefully and mark your choice accordingly. Some local races will have more than one to choose. Pay attention. Please tell those folks who you are assisting the same thing. Races for Congress only have ONE choice.
3. Be prepared to contest your vote or somebody else's vote.
Know your rights. Take a stand. If you see something not right - report it. There will be several people to one half dozen people in your precinct that are representatives from the major parties. Other districts may have Green or Libertarian members assisting Democratic poll workers. Please be advised - ask for credentials. Make sure these people are not misleading other voters. In 2004, Republican operatives used scare tactics, told people in line that the voting was finished or moved to another location. Some operatives lashed out, started yelling, only to cause a distraction or delay. Don't move. Stay in line - you have the right to vote and you cannot be turned away if you are in line.
4. Be patient.
Voting machines will break down. There will be delays. You may experience "vote changes" on the screen. Please tell somebody. Ask questions. Demand a receipt. Tell others. It is already happening in early voting in places like Texas and Arizona.
The people in power want as few people to vote as possible. It is easier for them to ensure the results they desire. Do not be discouraged. Do not give up. We must overwhelm them. This is it. My words are done. Our work is not. Pass this to as many people as you can and show up on Tuesday.
...be the change...
"Don't gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold." Bob Marley