I was an organizer in Sudbury for Elizabeth Warren. And as the returns came in on election night, it occurred to me immediately that I wanted to say thank you to everyone who had worked so hard on the campaign.
But then I felt funny about it. After all, I’m not Elizabeth Warren. I’m not even her campaign manager, and I certainly don’t speak for the campaign. So it felt just a bit presumptuous and perhaps self-important to be thanking others.
Then I saw how the TV reporting, as soon as Barack Obama had been named the winner, became really negative: we have a very divided country; it’s up to Obama to work with everybody; he hasn’t done it so far; lots of people don’t like him. And so on and so on. One pundit said that the reason Barack Obama had such a weak presidency is because his two big achievements (the bail-out and the health care bill) were pushed through without getting any buy-in from the Republicans.
Really? Is that the problem? That Obama didn’t “reach across the aisle”? Who’s kidding whom?
Then in the Globe the next morning I read their main article on the Elizabeth Warren victory. Here’s what it said:
“Despite both candidates’ ability to inspire a nation of donors and supporters, their campaign was fought on a relatively narrow bandwidth, with neither offering a specific vision for the future. Brown campaigned on bipartisanship, family, and with attacks on Warren’s legal work and her undocumented claims of Native American heritage.
“Throughout the campaign, the dynamics of the race changed little.
“Republicans banked on Brown’s popularity, his moderate reputation, and the belief that Obama supporters could be persuaded to split their tickets to balance the state’s representation in Congress. Democrats believed a well-financed candidate in a presidential election could simply overwhelm Brown’s efforts.”
So according to the Globe, Elizabeth Warren had no specific vision for the future. (Yes, they really said that!) And the only reason she won was because of what Republicans like to call “the Democratic machine”.
There’s a name for this kind of thinking. It is cynicism. The mainstream press is heavily invested in it. Day after day, year after year, we are told — as if it was self-evident — that our country is fundamentally conservative, that people with ideals and vision are deluding themselves, that all political views are equally valid, and that the problem with those of us who work for Democrats is that we’re unwilling to compromise. (Curiously, that same argument was never, as far as I know, applied to Scott Brown. In spite of Brown co-sponsoring the infamous Blount amendment, and holding Wall Street reform hostage till 19 billion dollars of concessions were made to large banks, and then intervening to water down the regulations implementing the bill, and many similar actions of his in the Senate, Scott Brown continues to be characterized in the press as some sort of “moderate”.)
But we had a candidate who in everything she did showed that cynicism was not so powerful after all. We had a candidate who was not afraid to express what we have felt for so long. She spoke, not as as some sort of technocrat — “I know business, so I’m qualified to be a political leader.” Rather, she spoke in terms of what we hold in common — our obligations to each other and to the generations that follow us. The ability we have to provide good jobs, to invest in education and research, to create a society in which everyone pays their fair share and everyone gets a fair shake. And as a former school teacher, I was moved when in her victory speech, Elizabeth Warren spoke particularly of her brothers and sisters in the labor movement. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a major Democratic political figure speak like that.
When a campaign like this comes along, with a candidate like Elizabeth Warren who articulates so clearly what we hold in our hearts and know in our minds, it has the capacity to drive back the ocean of cynicism that we at times feel ourselves overwhelmed by. It can bring out the best in every one of us. It can give us hope and bring us together.
And I saw it happen. I saw people who got signatures on nomination papers, put up lawn signs, signed our letter, came once, or week after week, to go canvassing with us, volunteered — many without even being asked — to do poll watching, and even showed up when their names had slipped through the cracks, showed up to make phone calls; and never let us down. I found this inspiring. It showed me that the people I’m living with in this country really are good people, people with a shared vision of a better world, and a determination to see it happen.
That meant a lot to me. I’m sure it meant a lot to everyone who worked on this campaign. And that’s why I want to say thank you.