The Iraqi War turned me into a partisan American. Before that point, I subscribed to the logic learned as a Political Science major in college: the Presidency was an office of compromise. When George Bush was “elected” I thought “how much damage could he really do?”
Even though Congress was Republican, a group of intelligent and forward-thinking people could trump anything the President and his cronies could propose. He was a reflection of those working behind him. Surely wisdom would prevail. There was safety in numbers: checks and balances. I was wrong.
And so I began to speak up. I thought about the differences between my and the President’s logic. I questioned the reasoning of the Democratic Party. How could they have become so out-of-step with the American people –with their base, the Working Class? The ramifications of Bush’s “big stick” global policies were evident to me. Why did so many other Americans hold him in such high regard? I read. I thought. I wrote.
When I found a conduit I did my part. This summer on the streets of Washington and San Francisco, young interns from the Democratic National Committee occupied the street corners asking passersby: “Would you help to elect John Kerry?” Whenever I was approached I took the opportunity to give them my opinion: “I’ve given money to the Democratic Party for the first time in my life. But it will be the last time if the Party and John Kerry don’t stop acting like wusses. The Republican message is flawed. Working class people are voting against their best economic interests. Have been for years. The Democrats need to reconnect with their base, not reject it.”
It was always a short street corner exchange. As farfetched as it seemed, it was my connection to the powers-that-be. After my first intern conversation, he replied, “You know, you’re the third person today to tell me this.” I was not alone.
Initially, I had doubts about John Kerry. Previous Democratic Presidential candidates had failed to engage Republican spin and the American people. But after watching the debates I was glad to hear him sound intelligent and to call the President to task on the misinformation about the War and his economic policies. It seemed so clear. It seemed so black and white. Kerry sounded and acted so presidential. He was factual (yes, he still better offer more details of his “plans”). The President, by contrast, merely repeated his Karl Rovean rhetoric. I still couldn’t understand how many could believe what he was saying, despite the facts. So, once again, I was energized.
Yesterday, I went to my county Democratic headquarters and picked up two lawn signs in support of the Kerry-Edwards ticket. Again, this was a first. I live on a quiet suburban street where local politics generally trump national –when we’re not talking about deer-resistant plants.
I live on a corner so I placed one sign on both sides. My wife took all the small American flags we had collected from effervescent real estate agents and planted them next to the signs. Both of us felt proud to make our feelings known.
This morning when I went to get the paper, I saw that someone had spray-painted over one sign and the second was torn in two. Words cannot describe my dismay. At first, I took the surviving sign down but then returned it to its place as a testament to this act: to the disingenuous and nasty partisanship filling our society. This is what America has become in the four years under George Bush. We are not just living in a red and blue country. We are living in a black and blue country.
Our sign says much more now than it did yesterday.