I’ve flirted with politics before. I spent a year on the doors for Citizen Action, educating folks of the dangers of toxic waste from the Ohio factories and profiteering from the power companies. It was like I was born into it. I was like a sponge when it came to progressive causes and I boiled the fifteen-second elevator “they’re screwing us” speech down to a science. People were running for the checkbooks when they saw me coming. It all came to a screeching halt because of…
wait for it…
That’s been a recurring theme in my life. When my romance flamed out, I lost my passion for the job. Or more likely, the shift in focus allowed me a closer examination of both myself and the fund-raising aspects of the job. After a particularly smarmy door where I talked a woman out of twenty-five dollars that she really didn’t have, I walked away feeling dirty. I quit that night.
The experience wasn’t all bad. It whet my appetite for politics and started me on my social justice addiction that I have today. A few years later, I honestly don’t remember how it happened, I got involved with a fun little group call the League of Pissed-Off Voters. It led me Get Out The Vote (GOTV) as a volunteer for the John Kerry campaign. It’s barely a blip in the radar of my life, but I met a few wonderful people who I cherish to this day. It was a feel-good campaign. We were the resistance against the war-mongering Bush-Cheney administration and we were going to knock them out of office. I remember making a final push to get voters to the polls on election day and then racing to the bar to watch the returns.
Things were going great. It was a nail-biter, but we had a few good things going in our favor. As I sat with my compatriots at the bar doing shots, we cheered at every state that went our way and grumbled at the alternative. It was coming down to Ohio, and that’s where we were. My efforts that day could actually swing an election. It was that close. The screen on CNN flashed to a graphic of the state map and the caption;
“98% in. It’s too close to call. The majority of uncounted votes are Cuyahoga County.”
A roar went up from my friends. We had done it. Cuyahoga County was the largest Democratic stronghold in the state. Forty percent of all D votes were located in that county. No way the Republicans can pull it out. We did another round of shots. It was maybe thirty minutes later that the graphic changed.
“George W. Bush has been reelected to a second term in office.”
The air went out of the room. The best way to describe it is stunned silence. We did not know how to react. My first thought is betrayal. The assholes had stolen the election right out from under us. That feeling persists to this day. I can rail on demand about Voter Suppression for all the livelong day. Between engineered precinct confusion, thrown-out ballots and electronic voting machine skullduggery, I’m still convinced that the bad guys stole that one.
We weren’t quite done. In January of 2005, I rented a car, packed some friends in, and headed to DC for the largest protested inauguration in U.S. history. More than 50,000 strong lined the parade route that the Bushes would travel. I marched with Code Pink, demonstrated outside the American Enterprise Institute, shouted slogans at the black-clad stormtroopers of the DCMP (and got pepper sprayed for my efforts), bonded with activists from Anarchist University, and partied hard.
I’d had a taste of the resistance elixir, but it took seven more years to finally make the break from the dark side of corporate America and come to the light.