This system is needlessly archane and the signature-gathering process can be daunting, but it can be done if the activist base wakes up early and focuses on the fact that the outcome in November is often determined by what people are willing to do in February, March and April. This February however found many of us discouraged, demoralized and depressed, not ready to think about the next campaign and in need of a break.
I can tell you that I have never seen the public more willing and ready to sign to put a statewide candidate on the ballot than they were for Grace Ross. All you had to do was tell the ones who would stop to listen that she was running for Governor as a Democrat on a program of Jobs, Health Care and Housing – against Deval Patrick – and most eligible blue-collar voters – white, black or brown, native-born or immigrant – would sign immediately.
“Against Patrick” was often the kicker that got the signature! People would call their friends and relatives over and tell them to sign. The working people are so, so done with Patrick! If you don’t understand this you need to get down onto the streets of your nearest city or mill town and talk to us. You need to know what we’re dealing with.
On the other hand, I have never seen the activist base – Democratic, issue group, community and labor alike – more full of excuses. Over a hundred promised to help Grace Ross collect signatures, but then couldn’t somehow make themselves get out and do it, or they only turned in a few. Hundreds of others simply begged off.
We had just come out of a non-stop cycle of city elections, the Special Election primary and the very discouraging Coakley/Brown defeat. Winter had gone on too long already, and on top of that the economy is in a depression (not, as some would like to spin it, a “great recession” or a “recovery”.) One of the things that depressions do is – they depress people. (Ask your favorite 80-year-old to tell you about this!) Activists, like lots of people, are finding ourselves depressed, overwhelmed and on the defensive. It’s a mass-scale phenomenon, but we experience it personally.
Town and city budgets are being trashed, municipal and teachers unions are fighting for their lives. City services are collapsing and schools are being closed. Neighborhood groups have suffered one budget cut after another and are running on fumes, and private donations have dried up. Construction unions are looking at disaster, with members who have been out of work for a year or two and unemployment benefits running out. Like everyone else, activists are scrambling to salvage our personal lives – to earn or find enough money to save our homes, feed their families and keep a roof over our heads. And our inboxes are flooded with urgent appeals from issue groups, unions, politicians, national and international organizations for help or money. It all starts to feel too overwhelming.
And always our despicable corporate media keeps amplifying the drum-beat of the haters, making them look like an invincible conquering army on the march, while giving what we do the silent treatment so that we end up wondering whether it really happened!
Most of us know what that feels like – a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, a kind of paralysis, your mind racing in circles from excuse to disaster scenario, from self-pity to self-blame, from flashes of anger to stories about who’s to blame and back to the beginning of the loop, until the need to shut it down and escape becomes irresistible. Latching onto a commitment and acting seems impossible, and promises become just more reasons for failing. It’s called “depression”. Defeats and economic depressions bring it on. And it’s all around us now.
And we really need to shake ourselves out of it, because the people of Massachusetts have never needed us more.
Hopefully when the counts are in we will have a choice, and a great debate this summer on Democratic issues and values. But if Grace isn’t on the ballot, that would leave the working people – who are getting steadily more angry and desperate – with no place to go in this race, and no one to speak for us. That’s a formula for disaster, for the Democratic Party and for Massachusetts. We should all be praying she makes it through the signature count.
But if Grace doesn’t make it, we need to be looking at how we can find a way to use her voice and her message – and our own – to rally the people against the approaching Republican/racist onslaught anyway – in spite of Deval Patrick.