Following a poor August, the Republican Convention in NYC, and some less-than-promising polling numbers this week, I’ve heard emerging despair from many of my democratic friends. It appears, however unthinkable, that George Bush has a real shot at retaining his presidency. It’s now clear that John Kerry is actually going to have to run a campaign to defeat George Bush, who refuses to be shamed into just leaving office with his tail between his legs.
We’ve got anger in abundance. We’ve had protests. We’ve held marches, vigils, and sit-ins. We’ve worn clever t-shirts, affixed cute bumper stickers, and dutifully supported political documentaries. We’ve felt good about ourselves, and self-righteous in our indignation. And yet, George Bush remains a viable candidate in the upcoming election. How can this be, after all that we’ve done?
Here’s an idea: perhaps what we have done, what we are doing, is ineffective? One of my favorite quotes comes from Thoreau: “it is not enough to be industrious, so are the ants; what are you industrious about?”
On the morning following the inauguration of George W. Bush into the office of presidency, I made a promise to myself that I would not just let my anger take over, but that I’d actually do something about it. I’d involve myself in the system, and learn how to affect change. I concluded one all-important lesson from the election of 2000: we had done a poor job organizing our support and communicating our message. In short, we got our ass kicked by a better team.
The Presidential election is still 2 months out; we may yet obtain victory. But, in the ensuing 2 months, let us re-evaluate our efforts. Are we just patting ourselves on the back, turning inward to our insular communities of self-support and singing to the choir? Or, are we broadening our message, and learning to communicate with Bush supporters and non-voters and giving them a reason to support John Kerry?
Even if we win, and especially if we lose, there is much work to be done. We need to rebuild the democratic party and message, and learn how to speak to those who see the world through different eyes. We need to focus our energies where they do the most to further our ideals.
It is not enough to be angry; we must be effective. It is not enough to be industrious, we must have purpose.