Dear President Obama, Senator Reid and Representative Pelosi,
In 1991, I clearly recall standing in my hometown library, filling out my voter registration card and mulling my party affiliation. I can't say I followed politics all that much at the time, but my early heroes were John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. and a rudimentary knowledge of their policies led me to check the box "democratic." I went on to vote for Bill Clinton twice, Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama. In 2004, I was so dismayed and disgusted with the state of our government that I quit my job to volunteer for the Kerry campaign in New York. I woke every day and took the F Train from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan to phone voters in Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Michigan and all over the country. I went to rallies. I celebrated Kerry's primary victories with fellow volunteers. I felt like I was doing something that truly mattered.
The result of that election left me enormously saddened and bordering on despondent. I firmly believed that John Kerry could take this country in the right direction. Early in the presidential race, I saw him speak in Queens, NY, and unlike the media's endless portrayal of him as a stiff elitist, I was incredibly moved by his words and conviction. Despite the sting of the loss, there was still hope in the future. There was hope in 2008.
I initially backed John Edwards. I was taken by his interest in the lower and middle classes and working to foster a more balanced America, something that most networks would clearly deem to be "communism." Jokes aside, when Edwards' run faded, I quickly moved into then-Senator Obama's camp. I was drawn by his call for sweeping change, accountability, ethics, fairness, health care reform, ending torture and just about every policy position that the candidate supported. Once again, I couldn't sit on the sidelines. A few days a week I walked down to the volunteer center on Fillmore Street here in San Francisco and picked up the phones. I chatted with citizens from all parts of the country. After just a few hours on the phones, it was clear that the passion we felt in that room was shared by many, many fellow citizen we reached by phone. I spoke extensively with fellow volunteers, almost all of whom were absolutely thrilled to be playing a part, but more importantly, appeared clearly taken by the moment.
And then came November 4th. Wearing one of my 47 Obama t-shirts, I went for a run during the day in an effort to ease my nerves. As I turned corner after corner, complete strangers would spontaneously toss a high five, shout something in support or press their car horns as I crossed city blocks. We could all sense that everything was about change. When the announcement came at 8pm PST, I sat in disbelief. My heart still picks up as I remember that moment. I just couldn't believe it. And then came the sweeping wins in the House and Senate. Our time had come. It took weeks, if not months, for the euphoria to ease.
This afternoon I printed out a voter registration card, filled in all my information and under party affiliation wrote "Independent." Oh, I knew that a lot of the hyperbolic language on the campaign trail probably wouldn't become reality, but I was absolutely certain that we'd be up for the fight. I knew that health care reform would be a grueling and dirty ride, but I knew we'd take it on with all that we had. I knew that the disparity between rich and poor would persist, but I also knew that we finally had a government that would look to bridge that gap. And the list goes on. Again, it was our time. Yes, we would make every effort to include everyone in the debate and crafting of policy, but in the end, we would move forward with our party's initiatives, policies that democrats have lived by for as long as one can remember.
When I saw the "Baucus Bill" today, I finally couldn't take it anymore. I could no longer fight for a party that I barely even recognized. This bill doesn't represent fight, it represents very little in the way of what brought millions of us out to volunteer. Yet after months and months of debate, this is what we're handed? Sure, we can all blame the Montana Senator and the "Baucus Six," but aside from a deluge of words, where has the leadership been from above? President Obama has certainly given us a lot of face time, but his management of the dialogue and ability to lead the country through this complex debate have been questionable . He basically ignored single-payer, and as time has passed, even the public option has been treated as an afterthought. One is left to wonder if our president is even fighting for the change that he spent almost two years championing.
That registration card sits to my right, sealed in an envelope, but missing one final piece: I have yet to place a stamp in the upper right. I guess that's the result of one final vestige of that word that likely led a young senator from Illinois to the White House: hope. Please don't take that away from us.