When U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the White House-hosted Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh in late October 2016, he closed by addressing his words to Silicon Valley types:
The final thing I’ll say is that government will never run the way Silicon Valley runs because, by definition, democracy is messy. This is a big, diverse country with a lot of interests and a lot of disparate points of view. And part of government’s job, by the way, is dealing with problems that nobody else wants to deal with.
Democracy is often messy. Yet out of the mess of the past month or so has emerged a victory for those who believe that the people of this country need to have all their health care needs addressed with the help and financial support of the government. I confess to being greatly relieved by this turn of events because a) it validates all the time and energy I’ve put into sending emails to local politicians; signing petitions; forwarding information to friends; b) it means we’ve all made a difference through our efforts and that is so rewarding. If you are not of the same persuasion, you may not agree with the rest of what I have to say. But we do need to listen to one another, so I hope you’ll finish reading my post.
Today I got back into the political arena by attending a meeting of the Huntington Town Democratic Committee at a nearby American Legion Hall. On a Saturday morning, there were about 50 people in attendance; most of them middle-aged or older. I saw some of my friends from the senior activist group I’ve joined, the Indivisibles. I was happy to see my fellow super seniors out there beating the bushes.
Our local congressman, Tom Suozzi, showed up and gave a very motivating speech. He encouraged us with his words: “The challenge is not just to resist and revolt, but to organize.” He stated that he is very energized by visiting groups like ours because “this is the way democracy is supposed to work. For too many years no one was politically active or wanted to get involved.”
He explained that our challenge now is to persuade the 10-20% of noncommitted voters to “work with us.” And that is hard work, he said. And it takes time…a lot of time. We were given a handout highlighting the things the Democratic Party has done to improve life in our town. He outlined his plan for organizing. He is taking his District 3 area and dividing it into 16 parts; he will be holding a town-hall meeting in each of them to start the recruiting and organizing process. He emphasized that we have to start by working on the local elections and turn things around.
Another person spoke about canvassing door-to-door and how it’s actually very interesting work to meet the people in your neighborhood and actually talk to one another. It’s not easy, he said in agreement with our Representative, but it’s very fulfilling work.
One person from the audience suggested that the Dems now need to be more aggressive about their own agenda, since the Republicans can’t seem to come with one they can agree upon. I think she’s right, and I hope that is some of the work the Democratic Party is currently engaged in.
I took a couple of petitions for people to sign to encourage our NY State Senators to adopt a single-payer health plan which is called the New York Health Act. I will share them with my yoga class participants. When I got home I felt good to have been part of the action the past few months and to see such encouraging results. But the real work lies in the weeks, months and years ahead for all of us who are unhappy with the way things are.