Watching the convention tonight, I felt pulled back in time. Sometimes it seems that many activists have one campaign that remains steeped in rose and gold, enthusiasm with no cynicism, adoration without suspicion. For me it was Howard Dean in 2004. I wore an orange hat and went door to door in Hiawatha, Iowa for him. Distributed literature in Cedar Rapids. Crashed on a cousin’s couch in Nashua passing out video tapes as people entered a supermarket. Made phone calls to South Carolina and Wisconsin from home. Then, lo and behold, I managed to snag a pass to the Convention in Boston on the night to hear Dean (and before him some senate candidate from Illinois). My eyes stung when he came out. Yelled my lungs out from the second mezzanine and loved how long that applause lasted. Still have that pass; still have one of the signs I held.
That was the beginning of my streak of primary disappointment. I liked Bill Richardson for his foreign policy experience. He dropped out, I went with Hillary. In 2016, I was mesmerized by Bernie Sanders’s message of economic justice. But it was the Dean loss that hurt the most. I believed in Dean….told him at our last conversation that I felt he was the Robert Kennedy of my generation. God did it rankle to see John Kerry up there receiving applause and nomination. Him! Ugh! It rankled to see him supporting Hillary twelve years later, too. Thankfully, I did find a state representative candidate I could support with vigor in that cycle; that was a life preserver in a sea of ennui. But the top line of the ballot still loomed.
It probably wasn’t until September that I came to terms with voting for John Kerry in 2004. Not because of the platform. Not because of the healing of time. I voted Kerry in November 2004 because I was expecting people in Florida and Ohio to do the same. God did I want those swing staters to do the right thing as I sat in electoral college irrelevance in the Bay State. Wow was I hoping, deeply urging them to suck it up and vote Kerry. No more wars, no more disasters…because a vote isn’t a self-indulgence. A vote isn’t a weapon, a cudgel, an expression. A vote is the strut you place in a bridge to the future, a bridge that I would be walking across; one my neighbors and someday my children would cross.
It may grate on me to hear from some of the Sanders delegates, the inconsistencies in their statements. Their flexible definitions of trust and truth to serve their dislike for Hillary. But….I probably would have said much of the same about John Kerry in 2004. In August, with tears in my eyes. I just hope my fellow Sanders supporters make that same journey I did in 2004. It’s never easy; it’s never fun. It’s never been more necessary.