On this mildly depressing day, I’m trying to hold on to the hope I’ve had at various points over the past two years.
Two weeks ago, President Obama came to Portland to campaign for John Kitzhaber, the Democratic candidate for Governor of the state of Oregon. Kitzhaber already served as governor for two terms – 1994-2002 – but now he’s back, making him the first three-term governor of Oregon. Just about an hour ago, it was announced he won an EXTREMELY TIGHT race against Chris Dudley (Republican and former Portland TrailBlazer). So, I am happy to report, Oregon bucked the national trend, electing a Democratic governor and re-electing all congressional incumbents (we have 5 reps and only one is a Republican, plus our two senators are Dems).
Avid readers may remember when I saw the President speak in 2008 at what may have been the largest political rally in history. This couldn’t hold a candle to that incredible experience, but it was still amazing.
I had volunteered with the Kitzhaber campaign the previous week, so they offered me a special ticket to the rally that would allow me to get in earlier and sit on bleachers instead of standing. In true Democratic fashion, the person who told me (on the phone) that there was a ticket in my name and the person I from whom I requested said ticket (in person) apparently were operating under two different systems and nobody had any idea what I was talking about. Half the office said there were tickets, the other half said there weren’t tickets but volunteers could get in line earlier, and no one knew who I’d talked to on the phone. Either way, they told me, they didn’t have any tickets, so it didn’t matter. Ah, Democrats. We are nothing if not disorganized.
Of course there were tickets, but I actually think that I got the better end of the deal. My friends Julia and Megan came with me and we ended up getting seats right in the middle of the exhibit hall. Although we had to stand (and wait for a really long time), we got to look at the screen and the side of Obama, while all the Kitzhaber people were on risers behind him. We got the better view:
There was lots of talk (online, on the radio, etc.) about how people wouldn’t be allowed in with bags or food or water, so we tried to bring only what was necessary (i.e. not my nice camera)… and then it turned out you could pretty much bring anything as long as it didn’t require a weapons permit. See earlier statement about my political party. Anyway, all this is just to say I took pictures with my little digital camera, so they’re not as great as they could have been.
Here he is, making a joke about Dudley:
(You can hear, after he mentions the Blazers, the woman next to me yells “He wasn’t even good!” Good thing Danny Ainge wasn’t running against Kitzhaber…)
Obama was fantastic. He said all the right things. He talked about the things he had done and the things he wished he could have done better. He said he was disappointed that more Republicans weren’t willing to even discuss issues, let alone actually compromise. He used the car-in-the-ditch analogy, which sounded so stupid when Tim Kaine said it on The Daily Show, but somehow Obama made it sound like a great analogy/battle cry. The Republicans spent years driving our car into the ditch, then they spent the last two years standing around, examining their fingernails while the Democrats slowly pushed the car out of the mud. Now that the car’s back up on the road and ready to get moving, they want the keys back. Then he said the best thing: “Have you ever noticed when you want a car to go forward, you put it in ‘D?’ And ‘R’ makes it go backwards?”
This reminded me of something Tom Brokaw said last night – he talked about how the current economic situation is what people were citing as the reason they voted Republican, when in reality, the economy took a dive during Bush’s administration. He said, “There’s a sort of ‘national amnesia’ every election year.”
As much as I loved seeing Obama speak again and as much as it gave me hope that good things can happen… I can’t help feeling defeated today as the emails from Planned Parenthood, The Human Rights Campaign and MoveOn.org come trickling in saying how dismal the situation is. I heard a Republican congressman on NPR today saying this means the Republicans have two years to prove themselves. I think the Democrats have two years to collect their statistics and work on their PR for the next campaign. It baffles me that they can’t find a way to get through to people and explain that paying a little more in taxes now will keep you from paying astronomical health care bills later, or that the economy is on a 1-2 year delay, so we’re currently reaping the benefits of a GWB presidency. How about all the examples of Democratic presidents creating surpluses so the Republican presidents can put us back in debt? You can’t say you want smaller government and less taxes and expect that small government to do anything for you (like create jobs or pay for libraries that educate Glenn Beck). So many candidates seemed to win on platforms of “I want the best of all worlds without paying for it!” Haven’t we learned that doesn’t work?
Apparently not, but I’m still sitting here in Oregon, holding out hope for the next two years.