Time for a little update about my midterms activities here in the Portland region.  I have been insanely busy canvassing and phone banking, as well as editing and writing articles for my local Democratic Party.  In particular, I have been spending a lot of my time volunteering for the re-election campaign of Kate Brown, our kickass female Democratic governor.

This race is the perfect example of why the midterms are so important.  It’s very easy to get complacent in a place like Oregon.  This is a blue state–the Democrat will win, right?  But while we were being complacent, this has suddenly turned into a very tight race, with polls showing Governor Brown and her opponent to be very close.  Not least thanks to Republican Knute Buehler cleverly portraying himself as a moderate, since he knows that’s the only way he can possibly win the Portland metro area.  Knute says he’s pro-choice in his ads!  He’s liberal on social issues!  He’s got an independent streak!  He criticized President Trump that one time!

While Knute does his “I’m really not a conservative!” song and dance, the Democrats are stuck with the problem of having a competent and hard-working incumbent who doesn’t get any exciting PR for being that way.  I frequently hear voters say “If only Kate had done something impressive!”  After I’ve done some deep breathing and lowered my blood pressure, I direct them to this list of accomplishments.

Some of my favorite highlights include:

She approved a minimum wage hike for the state.

She mandated 40 hour paid sick leave for all Oregon employees.

She set up a state-run retirement fund for any workers who are not provided a retirement plan at work.

She signed a bill which ensured that all Oregon kids receive health care.

She increased funding for the Oregon Promise Act, which helps low-income students attend community college.

She signed legislation to enforce universal background checks on gun purchases.

And she helped pass the motor voter bill, which makes any Oregon resident with a state ID automatically registered to vote.

My climate activist friends are rooting for a carbon pricing bill which is currently working its way through the state legislature.  If Governor Brown is re-elected, she is likely to sign this bill.  If Knute Buehler is elected, bye-bye carbon pricing.  Likewise, Knute claims to be pro-choice now, but before he started his centrist run for the governor, he voted against a bill expanding abortion rights.  A Governor Buehler would be much more likely to restrict reproductive rights for women.

Has Kate Brown’s leadership been ideal? Has she done everything I would like her to do? Nope, but I don’t expect that, because I inhabit reality and not a fantasy world. But…have the things she has done had a real effect on people’s lives? Absolutely yes. I would say she’s made a difference to the kids who were able to get health care, the women whose ex-boyfriend stalker wasn’t able to buy a gun, or the people who will get paid a higher minimum wage.

The problem is that all these things take hard, unglamorous, daily work.  And that kind of work is much less likely to get attention than, say, somebody sitting on his ass and sending out offensive Tweets, or heavily armed dipshits coming to our fair city and hoping to cause trouble.  And chances are even higher that a hard-working and qualified politician will get overlooked or criticized if that politician happens to be a woman (I can think of someone that happened to not that long ago, ahem).

Hopefully voters will take Kate Brown’s achievements into consideration in November. (I know, I’m asking American voters to actually think…that can seem like a stretch sometimes.)  Or, maybe Portland progressives will do what they do best…let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and thus snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Aaaand months from now all those political purists will be complaining about something the Republican governor did which they don’t like.  Hey, don’t come crying to me…I was out here trying to prevent that from happening!

Speaking of which…the weekend is almost upon us, which means time to lace up my canvassing shoes and get out there.  Hope all of you are getting ready to fill out that ballot.  Only two and a half weeks left until the election!

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The young woman had been camped out in front of City Hall for over a month. Her hair was straggly, but she had a smile on her face and she was holding a donut.

“Can you tell us why you’re still here?” the local news interviewer asked.

“I’m here because of my deep commitment to equity and fighting the oppression of marginalized communities,” the woman said. Granted, she looked like she wouldn’t recognize a marginalized community if she tripped over it on her way to her local co-op vegan cafe, but I loved her anyway.

I was obsessed with the protests. Every afternoon, as soon as I got home from work, I dropped onto my couch, slipped off my shoes and watched the latest. The campers were opposed to the Mayor’s harsh treatment of the homeless. Their encampment was supposed to be a reminder to him of how those without a home were forced to live. It sprawled out from City Hall into the nearby park, littering it with insulting signs, red flags and communal kitchen pots.

They weren’t going to accomplish anything in the end. And there was no way that I could go sit there with them, not with my job and my mortgage. Despite all of that, I fantasized about the protesters. I fantasized about ordering pizza for them, going to bring them homemade soup. Maybe I could knit scarves for them. I would hand out a scarf to each of them, give them a hug and tell them how special they were. I would be like the Mother Theresa of the City Hall camp. It was the least I could do.

I turned off the TV and went to pour myself a glass of wine. The rice was already cooking. I switched on the radio. The local leftie community station was broadcasting from the camp. I listened and the little butterfly of excitement started fluttering around my belly again.

I could feel a shift in my body and suddenly, another voice drowned out the activist on the radio. The voice was calm and logical, sounding very confident even though it was offering public testimony in front of the city council.

It’s not that we don’t want this development to be built at all. It’s just that it’s too big. It’s going to change the character of the neighborhood…

I shook my head and stared down into the sink. No matter how much I wanted it to turn off, the voice continued.

And is the building going to have sufficient parking? Where are the residents going to park? I’m betting the cars will end up on our street…

I turned off the radio. Mother Theresa. What was I thinking? I walked back to the living room with my wine glass, but the voice followed me.

We all agree that affordable housing is so important, but…

The shift had already happened to me a long time ago. I had turned into the person who testifies against affordable housing projects if they’re being planned for her neighborhood. I could indulge in rebellious nostalgia all I wanted to, but I was not who these anarchist hippie kids wanted to see at their protest, not any more than I wanted to have an actual conversation with someone who was homeless. Not any more than I would have liked to see the City Hall camp in my backyard, if I was going to be honest.

I had shifted far past what I had once believed in, floating off on the stream of comfortable daily habit until I no longer knew where I was. Was I even a progressive? I had no idea.

Well, sitting here and feeling bad for myself certainly wasn’t going to help anyone. I wiped my eyes and turned on the Lifestyle Channel. They always had the best decorating tips.

Dedicated to my Bernie-loving friends

First, they would come for the guns.  That was obvious.

He had always expected that to happen.  He was surprised that it hadn’t happened during the Obama years–the international left-wing cabal must’ve been even craftier than he suspected.  The Trump years were a relief, although he knew the deep state never stopped working for evil.

But now, the unthinkable had happened, and that Bernie guy had won the presidency.  Goddam commie.  How was this possible?  Sure, President Trump–Trump would always be *his* President–he had made a few missteps.  The recession and the massive tent cities were bad PR.  And that incident with Angela Merkel, the one which caused a break in diplomatic relations between US and Germany–people thought that was a big deal, although who needs Germany anymore?  They should be taking better care of their local Muslims, he muttered.

So now, Barfie was President.  Brokie?  He really needed to come up with a better nickname for him.  He had a lot of fun with “Obummer” during Barack’s tenure, but he just wasn’t feeling as creative right now.

Anyway, now was not the time for fun–it was time to be vigilant.  Thank goodness he was self-employed and mostly worked from home, so he only left the house when absolutely necessary, and never unarmed.  Fox News kept him informed about the goings-on in the outside world–the Great American Crisis, as they called it.  He had started seeing black and brown kids walking around his neighborhood.  What were they up to?  Where did they come from?  Another sign of the times he was living in.

It would be gradual.  First, taxes would go higher and higher, so they could fund all those government programs.  He already had some dumb bitch at his door a few days earlier, telling him about a public health care program he could sign up for.  It would be less expensive, she said.  He slammed the door in her face.  He was no fool.

Soon, they would want everybody to stop driving.  He remembered when they built that light rail line near his house.  He had known that was trouble even back then.  If these people had their way, everyone would be riding a bicycle.  And if they couldn’t force him to bike, he would end up on some stupid train with a bunch of loud and smelly assholes who didn’t speak English half the time.

Then the final blow:  they would come for the homes.  These leftie planners didn’t like the suburbs with the big yards and parking lots.  They would take the houses and move everyone into tiny apartments in the city, so that the space could be given back to nature, or some stupid shit like that.  Not that he hated nature.  He had hunted since he was a little kid.  Animals had been created by God as a special gift for man’s enjoyment, and he appreciated that.

By the time they would take his house, the gun confiscation program would have been completed, so he would either be dead or in prison by then.  At least he hoped so.  He didn’t want to be around to see this.  Although he was planning to put up a hell of a fight before he went out, that was for sure.

Once they got all the people crammed together in the city, they would be easy to control.  Then the social engineering could really get rolling.  The only jobs available would be in government-owned factories and stores.  No freedom at all.  Going to church would be forbidden.  Women could be ordered to get abortions.  Hell, they would probably outlaw soda and fast food, and make the sheeple eat a mandatory vegan diet.  He shook his head at the thought.

The day of reckoning hadn’t come yet.  But it wouldn’t take much longer, he figured. And when it did, he would be right here waiting for it, with his television on and his gun in his hands.

 

No matter how skillful I am with my words, someday I am going to trip over them, and I know that when I do, you will be there, waiting.

You embrace me.  “I’m so happy to see you here today, sister!”

We are sisters–not through blood, but through purpose.  We’re part of the same community.  Working together to make the world better.  Or are we?

Or are we happier when we get the opportunity to cut each other down?  Tear each other down in the name of…what, exactly?  Not in the name of power.  Lord knows there isn’t any real power in our little activist groups.  No real money to be had from this, either.  Oh, but there certainly is the chance to look morally superior.  To feel virtuous.

You’ve already got an advantage over me when it comes to that.  You’re younger, so the forces of history are on your side.  The story of our times is flowing your way, while I’ve turned into The Man (or The Woman, in this case).  Someday you will be The Woman, too, although you can’t imagine it now.  Because you’ll never be like me!  Right?

Your other advantage is that you’ve got sharp eyes.  As well you should–this is politics, after all.  They don’t miss the slightest flaw, and so of course you will catch me when I stumble.  And you will not be forgiving when you do.  We’re a bunch of perfectionists on the left–one flawed cookie spoils the whole revolutionary batch.

Hell, I grew up in a world in which lefties regularly informed on each other and sent each other to prison.  I’ve got no illusions.  I know we’re not anymore tolerant or forgiving than the other side–except we’re that way for a good cause.

At least in this case, I won’t be sent to prison–not by you, anyway.  Instead, our group will get caught up in the infighting, and it will become even smaller and more laughable as we exclude more people.  Our opponents will love it, and will mock us mercilessly.  You will be praised for your rock-solid principles, and will advance to greater personal success, even if the community as a whole loses out.

But I really do believe in the higher purpose of what we’re doing here. So I will do my best to outmanoeuvre your all-seeing eyes, and will keep doing my work.  And even if someday I commit the unforgivable sin of being human and tripping over myself, regardless of what you may think of me, I will still be here.

Dedicated to all the disappointed elves

She worked her magicks in the darkest recesses of a D.C. conference room, her navy blue pantsuit blending perfectly with the shadows.  Lady Hillary bent her head over a makeshift altar and chanted the incantations that would turn her into the Ruler of the Free World.

Just as she was halfway through her TPP spell, the door of the room flew open and a slim silhouette appeared.

She turned from the altar and sighed heavily.  Naturally, it was one of Bernie’s elves.  Many of them had by now acknowledged defeat and scurried back to their woodland communes to tend their tiny herb gardens, but a couple of die-hards here and there were still trying to mount attacks on her.

The Bernista had flowing locks and big, bright eyes.  She was followed into the room by her unicorn sidekick.  Lady Hillary glared at them with impatience.

“You’re never going to give up, are you?”

“It’s not too late!”  the elf proclaimed with a trembling voice.  She threw her hands up and wiggled her fingers in the air.  “I cast my positive vibrations upon you, oh dark one!  Acknowledge that you are not the rightful nominee!”

Lady Hillary cackled.  “Spare me this amateur stuff.  You do realize, of course, that I have persuaded the majority of those in the Democratic Party to vote for me.”

“It’s all lies and fraud!  It cannot be true.  Bernie is the chosen one for this time.  Did you not see the Goddess send down the little bird at his rally?  Do not question the bird!”

“Enough about that stupid bird already…well, never mind.”  Lady Hillary softened her tone. “Look, you and I both know that the only way to defeat the Donald is to make an alliance with me.  Be reasonable, my little one.  You want to believe in good witches, but that’s not how the world works.  Although I do so admire that pure heart of yours…I feel as if…I must have it…”  She reached out her hand toward the glowing center in the elf’s chest.

“Don’t touch me!” the elf squealed, backing away.

“Or what?  Your Bernie will save you?”

“Bernie will save everyone in Americaland.”

“Ha!  You think his wizardry is truly powerful enough to make all his promises come true?  He will have to raise taxes.”

A slight smile played upon the elf’s lips.  “Ah, but you do not know about our secret weapon. Our unicorns aren’t just adorable…they also fart money.”

“Is that so?”  Lady Hillary stared at the unicorn with great interest.

“I feel a little put on the spot,” the unicorn said.

The elf tilted her head.  “Now will you concede the battle?”

“Concede?”  Lady Hillary laughed.  “Clearly, you do not understand the kind of power you are dealing with here.”  As she said this, she expanded and grew in stature, until she towered over the Bernista.  “I am not merely the Democratic candidate for President.  I am also a crazy leftist and a sell-out Republican at the same time.  Simultaneously responsible for too much war and too much appeasement.  Too calculating and too loud.  Too easily influenced by corporations and by socialists.  I contain it all, the left and the right, the masculine and feminine, every policy and none of them.  I am the everything and nothing of politics.  Try to stand against me and you will be consumed by the void.”

The elf covered her face, but she was past saving.  Her bright eyes turned black–she had gazed into the heart of the political machine.  One more moment, and she vanished into a puff of glitter.  The unicorn pooped out a little pile of cash and fled.

Lady Hillary shook her head.  “Always the same with these creatures.  So much fire, so little strategy.  It’s a shame–this one was cute.”  She turned back to the altar.  “Ah, yes.  What should I do next?  Where is that spell to get Bernie’s endorsement?”

First off, let me say that I tend to be pessimistic about most aspects of American politics. I was pessimistic about the chances of Obama winning re-election in 2012. And I was totally wrong about that. So, grain of salt and all that.

I’m not optimistic about Bernie Sanders.

Everyone I know on the left is super excited about Bernie. And why not? I get it. I love what he has to say too. But I’m not so sure the general American public is ready for him. The Bernie supporters that I’ve spoken to claim that it is. Perhaps they’re encouraged by Obama getting elected and then re-elected. But Obama has spent his presidency governing more like a moderate Republican, and half the country STILL believes that he is an evil Communist. So I’m a little worried about the chances of a self-proclaimed Socialist.

And I’m very worried about the chances of Scott Walker getting the Republican nomination, since that is the direction I believe the GOP is heading in. Scott Walker makes me nervous. I’m an American worker, and he’s got a legacy of either doing or trying to do awful things to the workers in his state. Keep in mind, this is the pessimist talking–I believe he could win the whole thing. I think he could easily beat Bernie, as Scott has a way of pretending that he’s a centrist during his campaigns. He will portray himself as the moderate and Bernie as the fringe candidate.

What are some of the things I fear a President Walker doing? Reclassifying overtime pay law, so that fewer jobs qualify for it. Killing the weekend and the 40 hour work week, as the Republicans in Wisconsin wanted to do. Repealing the ACA. Privatizing Medicare. I don’t buy for a second that there wouldn’t be any difference between a Hillary presidency and a Walker presidency. Yeah, most Democrats are part of the corporate system too, but none of them are going to go after the average worker in the aggressive way that Walker will.

Of course, Bernie would be perfect at addressing all these issues. Sadly, America just isn’t progressive enough for him. Maybe there’s been a deeper and faster demographic shift than I realized. Otherwise, I don’t see it.

I should add that if Bernie does become the Democratic nominee, I will definitely support him and put time and effort into working for his election. Until then, I remain cautious.

One thing is for sure–volunteering for Hillary’s local campaign should be a lot of fun. I expect to get abuse from both sides, the conservatives *and* the Bernie supporters. Bring it on! I’ve always enjoyed a good debate.

It’s funny–I’m thinking that to most progressives like me, Barack Obama’s presidency has been a bit of a struggle and a letdown. It’s my own fault. My expectations were way too high. It was hard not to get swept away in the idealism of the moment back in 2008. Reality could never live up to that, for so many reasons, whether because the President himself wasn’t gutsy enough or because the Republicans hated him too much. The presidency itself has become mired in so much nastiness–government shutdowns and gridlock and calls for secession and endless vitriol–that it’s difficult to recall that once upon a time, it was inspirational to watch this guy get elected.

So it’s been a little surreal to see Barack’s old slogan “Yes We Can” take on a life of its own on the international scene. The Prime Minister of India recently used #YesWeCan as a hashtag to solicit suggestions from citizens about how to improve the country. And the Spanish anti-austerity party, Podemos, has been chanting “Si Se Puede” at its marches. I suppose that for people in those countries, the phrase has not become soiled by our domestic political wrangling. Or maybe the world still loves a catchy American meme.

I find the Spanish left-wingers especially humorous. Watch out, if you keep chanting that, you might get a…paralyzed center-right government? Oh well, perhaps their willingness to protest will get them what we haven’t been able to achieve. The Europeans are pretty good about standing up for themselves when they feel their quality of life is being curtailed.

My personal aspirations for “Yes We Can” are a lot more humble than they used to be. “Yes We Can” elect someone other than Scott Walker to be the next President? Please?