My Apology to Hillary Clinton and Robin Wilt

I owe an apology to Hillary Clinton and to Robin Wilt.  Hillary Clinton ran for President, in 2016, and despite winning the popular vote, lost the electoral college by about 40,000 votes. It cost her the Presidency, and despite all the talking heads, it was not as simple as they may like to pretend it was.

Robin Wilt just ran in the Democratic primary, for the 25th Congressional district, in New York. This is the seat that has been represented, for decades, by a giant. Louise Slaughter was the real deal. She was brilliant, competent, compassionate, and she had no ego. I got to meet her, and even work with her, on county level politics, about 20 years ago. She never needed the fanfare, and just wanted to get the job done, whatever the job was. She was happy taking a back seat, to give up a more prime seat, if there was bickering. She really had no hubris. Filling her shoes is not something that can ever be done, but this seat in Congress, must nevertheless be filled. We need our representation.

I compared the 4 candidates, on the ballot in the Democratic primary, for this seat.. They included Joe Morelle, a longtime Assemblyman, and what many label the establishment Democrat. That seems to be a smear lately, and I think that’s bad for the entire resistance, that progressives in the party are using it against people on our own side of the aisle, but we’ll get to that.

Rachel Barnhart, was a local reporter, who has repeatedly attempted to enter elected office, but has yet to be successful.  I give her credit, for standing up and running for any office. It’s not easy, and it take a lot of commitment.  That’s about all I give her, because I don’t respect her campaign tactics, and I have concerns that she keeps running for different offices, hoping to get a good gig.  I also think she keeps running, so she can fund-raise to pay off past campaign debt, but that’s just my experience with the motivations people have to run for any office available.

Adam McFadden is a member of the Rochester City Counsel. He is a good local politician, but also a hothead, and I did not have confidence in his ability to be effective in Congress. I like him at the city level, even if that is selfish of me. I think he’s good for Rochester.

Robin Wilt is a professional, who has served on the Brighton, NY town board, and who has been a long time grassroots activist. She is the real deal. She didn’t just get into politics, for the limelight. She got into the political sphere, because she was attempting to affect change. What happened? She did. She got change to happen, again and again.  Once you compare all 4 of the candidates, it’s not hard to see why I chose to vote for Robin Wilt. She may not have been the “obvious” choice, but I had absolute confidence that she was the best choice.

Morelle won the primary. He’s really a good guy, and I know he will be receptive to his constituents. I’m excited to vote for him to be my next rep in the house, this November. I’m still bummed it won’t be Wilt on the ballot, but I will move on. We have too much to fight for, too much to resist, to dwell on what is done.

To that end, I won’t lament over the 2016 election either. i.e. How I saw the candidates and such. I already wrote on that, here (I May Be a Relucant Clinton Supporter, But I’m Getting There) . Instead, I want to explain why I owe Ms. Clinton and Ms. Wilt an apology.

See, I kind of stumbled into my engagement with both the 2016 Presidential election, and this 2018 Democratic primary for the 2018 midterm elections.  It’s not like I tripped and fell. It’s more like I was lazy. I rolled out of bed, and dragged myself to the voting booth, with tepid zeal, and it had little to do with the candidates. Despite the mass of incivility people fling at candidates and elected officials, my indifference was more emblematic of the tenor of standard American voter apathy. Spare me the character assassinations, you might all choke my apathy out to really being about. I’m talking about something more important.

My friends consider me an exception to the rule, because I am an informed citizen, and they are not wrong.  America is a paradox. People wave the flag and cry patriotism. People also roll their eyes at campaigns and complain when people bring up politics. “I just can’t. I could care less. They all suck. Blah, blah, blah.” Well put, don’t you think?  The point is, we have a bigger problem than corrupt, racist, and/or lazy elected officials. We have a lazy, apathetic citizenry, and I am part of the problem. For that, I need to apologize to the candidates who stood up to serve, and who were let down by the citizens who they would have represented with their whole heart and soul.

I know, I sound like a naive simpleton, musing romantic notions about the ideals of our democracy.  To that I say, sit down won’t you please?  This country is a democratic republic. Yes, it’s a republic, because we elected a President, but it is still a representative democracy, in that we vote for our leaders, and the executive branch is a co-equal branch, that has no more power than the legislative body of representatives.

I am starting to really see that our problems and our solutions are intertwined. The more people engage in the process, by being informed and by voting, the more representative our democracy can be. The less people engage, the less it is representative. If you were elected to office, and your constituents never called or contacted you, to ask you to vote a certain way on a bill, but a contact from a lobbying group did contact you, that is the only voice you hear.

It’s easy to blame the politicians, but it’s harder to take responsibility, for our part in this. If we aren’t telling our elected officials how we want them to represent us, how do we expect them to know?  If we keep re-electing the people, who never vote in our interests, how do we expect to get any better results? (I’m looking at you, Kentucky. Mitch McConnell is a cancer in the Senate. He has perverted the Senate rules and our country’s laws, for greedy personal agenda, and has never once served the actual needs of the people of Kentucky.)

I supported Sanders, in 2016, vowing to ultimately support the nominee, as the Presidential election was too important. He disappointed me more than I can say, after the nomination, but I also disappointed myself. I should have volunteered more, in Clinton’s campaign. I could have phone banked (in hindsight, focusing on Wisconsin and Michigan would have been really helpful).

I did support Clinton online, pushing for people to give her a chance. I did do some canvassing (knocking on doors and getting people to consider voting for her). I took off of work on Election day, so I could volunteer with the local Democratic Committee. They coordinate driving people to the polls to vote, if they don’t have a way to get there. Republicans spin this as us desperate to get out our vote. Not only is that crass, cynical, and jaded, it’s inaccurate. I have been a life-long democrat. I won’t speak for the whole party, but including when I was the Director of Operations at the Monroe County Democratic Committee and on that election day, my primary goal was to ensure citizens had their voices heard. Even if you were planning to register or vote for a Republican, I still wanted to get you registered and get you to the polls. That is the only way all of our voices are heard.

On that election day, I answered phones, looked up peoples’ registration, polling places, coordinated rides, helped around the office, and did whatever I could to help.  I should have been doing that for weeks. My “lazy” excuse is that I have lupus and fibromyalgia, so even though I sit at a desk all day, I’m exhausted by the time I’m done with work, and can’t fathom going to volunteer anywhere. I am working to push past that, because I know so many accomplish so much more, with so much less than I have.

When it came to the primary for the 25th Congressional district, I would say I did the least amount possible, for a citizen to do, while still being involved at all.  I looked up who the candidates were, I picked one, and I voted.  Because I like to encourage the voter turnout, I put together the info I found, into a tweet:

I wasn’t able to watch the debate, because I was attending a preview screening of the Mr. Rogers documentary that night, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. It was a very special story, that I’m glad I got to see. I figured I would look for the debate online. I also found the Democrat and Chronicle’s summary of it. To be fair to all candidates, I included a 2nd thread to the tweet, listing all their twitter handles and websites, so voters could decide for themselves. I didn’t inject my opinion, because my first goal was to encourage people to show up.

After work, I went to my therapy session, and then went home to pick up my partner, so we could go vote together.  It took us less than 15 minutes. There was 1 guy ahead of us. I checked online later, and saw a local news outlet had reported about 16% turnout, for the election.  It is considered that there should be at least 20% of a body, to achieve a quorum (the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid. ~ google dictionary definition ). We didn’t even achieve that.

It gave me hope to see how well NY14 did in showing the country that a newcomer can oust a decades long incumbent, if that incumbent gets complacent and doesn’t engage with their constituents. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also showed that the Democratic party is a huge tent. While pundits wax nostalgic, for the Democratic party to be progressive and not “establishment”, I would again like to ask them to take a damn seat. Nancy Pelosi has worked hard to do good, despite the many character assassinations against her. Same with Chuck Schumer. That doesn’t mean they aren’t flawed, and don’t make any bad decisions.

I have disagreed with both of them many times. Most recently, their condemning of Maxine Waters. Representative Waters wasn’t advocating harassment, but she was encouraging people to speak truth to power. She was saying, that if you support a fascist, expect to have people protesting you. What’s more, they knew this, but spoke against her, instead of backing her up. Meanwhile none of them thought to condemn Steve King for retweeting a nazi.  Does that mean we should dump them? No. It really doesn’t, and the mob mentality to pile on, when we find a crack in the walls, drives me nuts. No elected official is perfect, but we have to balance the good with the bad.

The thing is, the Democratic party needs only one message. We want every citizen to vote. Be informed, and be engaged. Vote. Republicans are pushing against voting rights, for gerrymandering, and for closing polling places, shortening early voting windows, and making voting harder. It’s pretty easy to see which party wants our democracy to be truly representative, and which party just wants to wield power, with no one to stop them, and no one paying attention. Beyond that one succinct message, the party needs to drown out the talking heads and just get to the real work of grassroots campaigning, for every candidate on the ballot. Divide resources equally, stop playing favorites, and put the egos aside.

I truly do believe that how representative a democracy can be, directly correlates to how engaged it’s citizenry is in the process. Right now, I think our federal government is so far from being representative, we are close to losing that representation; that democracy. The thing is, it can truly change over night.  Not by polls, or noise. Not by a big October surprise, or some bombshell occurrence, even though those things can affect outcomes. No. It can happen in 1 day. The one day, that the elected officials stop representing us, and we can choose who we want speaking for us all over again. Every elected official is fired, on that day, and asking to be re-hired. Every citizen is their boss.

Election day is a sacred day, when we get to choose who represents us and how we are represented.  It will never matter what the polls say. “She doesn’t have a chance”, “He’s got it in the bag”, “It’s a tight race, but demographics and turn out averages suggest, blah, blah, blah.” It’s all speculation. Sure there is some analysis to it, but every year, there is a new pool of eligible voters. American citizens turn 18, and get to cast a vote. Any year they choose to yield that power, they can swing the whole ball game.

Does this all sound naive? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. It’s the very core of what this country is supposed to be about. The experiment of a free democracy seems to live on America’s shoulders. It’s time us citizens take our part in holding up that burden. It’s time we show up.

Hillary Clinton, I’m sorry I didn’t volunteer more, and sooner.

Robin Wilt, I’m sorry I researched too late, and didn’t volunteer at all. I showed up to vote, but that is not always enough. It’s especially not enough when the authentic candidate is an underdog. When 2 of the 4 candidates have massive name recognition, grassroots campaigning is imperative, and it takes people being willing to volunteer their free time to help get the word out. Really believe in someone? You might have to get your hands dirty, and get out in the streets.

I promise to do better. To phone bank, canvass, volunteer, engage and to show up. It’s my patriotic duty, as a citizen of this country, and not doing so is abdicating my responsibility to this country that I owe so much.

 

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