Democrats all across America are having an open tent discussion about our values and priorities. President Barack Obama urges us to "buck up." And well we should. Let me tell you how I did. This is not Happy Talk time (though we all want to feel joy in our campaigns). Rather, as the late great Paul Wellstone used to say http://shop.1asecure.com/prod.cfm?ProdID=181912&StID=3291) this is a "Mumble. Grumble. Complain. Wallow. Hope. Despair. Worry. Vote." election. People are hurting -- so rather than blaming folks for being upset, effective leaders are validating the venting before channeling the anger into voting.
During travels around the country, I meet people working their hearts out for Democratic advocates who "care about the problems of people like me" (as the polling question goes) and are willing to stand up and fight for working families who refuse to give up their chance at the American Dream. In the past week alone, I've been with my fellow and sister Young Democrats of America in Washington, DC (I'm a board member), talking from my book Campaign Boot Camp with public service workers in Appleton, Wisconsin, and visiting with community leaders and my DNC constituents in Calaveras County, California. They voted for President Obama and plan to vent before they vote. They've bucked up -- they just want to know that their elected officials work as hard as they do to tackle problems, and they are rewarding the ones who've taken care of home.
In Washington, DC, we gathered with Speaker Nancy Pelosi to celebrate the Patients Bill of Rights on September 23, the day that insurance companies could no longer put a cap on care or discriminate against pre-existing medical conditions and must keep youth on a parent's plan till age 26. we also commemorated the 6 month anniversary of student loan reform, which shifted big money from banks into more loans for students. All huge help for young people trying to find a pathway out of the thicket of student loan debt, a tough job market, and big money politics. Though the punditocracy says write off youth for midterms, YDA says no. Indeed, our President Rod Snyder pointed out recently in a letter to the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/opinion/lweb12dems.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=%22rod%20snyder%22&st=cseeven in a difficult political climate, Democrats maintain a 22-point advantage in party identification with voters under 30. As the millennial generation becomes a larger percentage of the overall electorate, the Democratic Party is poised to experience long-term gains." Short term, we must continue to engage them through intense outreach with peer-to-peer networks. This generation raised online with hardwired b.s. detectors cares most about authentic communications from their peers not canned talking points -- so we have to take an each-one-reach-one approach for college students, young servicemembers and veterans, single women, communities of color, LGBT youth, and young families.
In Appleton, Wisconsin, workers told me about over 100,000 jobs mowed down by the 2008 market crash and some seedlings growing from new business expansions like Palermo's Pizza, service jobs at Aurora Health Care, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Kohl's, Republic Airlines, and manufacturing jobs at Ingeteam and Talgo. They said public service jobs that used to go unfilled are now staffed to capacity, with employee givebacks part of the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations. As my daughter and I shared deep fried Oreos served up by the local Democrats at their "Kickin' Donkey" Oktoberfest booth, the local activists working for Steve Kagan, Russ Feingoldd, Tom Barrett and the entire ticket said their main focus was fighting for jobs and for corporate accountability. They made it clear that representatives who have taken care of home were doing well even in an anti-incumbent environment because they tended to their base and listened to all manner of mumble grumble complain wallow hope despair and worry throughout their time on office, not just dirung election season when it's time to ask for a vote.
In Calaveras County, California -- gold country, immortalized by Mark Twain's tales of the jumping frogs -- we had a town hall meeting on jobs, justice, Democrats and democracy in Mokelumne Hill, across the street from Leger's, an 1840s beer tent turned landmark hotel where split rail and white picket fences evoke the pioneer days. Fire has destroyed the town, but they're rebuilt before and are looking to that same spirit of entrepreneurship to rebuild from a Calaveras County unemployment that rose to 15.2% and property tax that dropped by 12%, with construction jobs and tax revenues lost to high foreclosures and few housing starts. The economy is transitioning to a tourism economy, but they need universal broadband to keep people in touch while they're getting away from it all, and a solid technology infrastructure. Government, hospitals and schools are the top employers, and all have seen significant reduction in staff. The Recovery Act of 2009 and emergency aid to states in 2010 brought in $4 million to the local school district, keeping teachers in classrooms with lower student ratios. They said one common sense solution would be for the federal government to have laid off construction workers clear the accumulated brush that makes Calaveras one of the top forest fire danger zones in California -- combining public safety, public works, and public good all in one jobs plan. Calaveras is part of California's 3rd Congressional district, where even Republicans concede a tough race due to the energetic Dr. Ami Bera, a doctor who ran admissions at UC Davis who argues that we should do more to invest in new businesses, promote healthcare reform, and help young people get jobs. This race is a key indicator of the fight against outsourcing -- Lungren voted against a plan to close corporate loopholes while Bera supports insourcing CA jobs. While the state considers the impact of last year's corporate tax cut of 25% mostly for the largest corporations in the state, without their necessarily creating a single new job in California, or even in the U.S., most people want to shut down outsourcing loopholes now more than ever.
Pick a point on the map of the United States and you will find Americans working through the mumble grumble complain wallow hope despair worry stages of political thought. So what are we going to do about it? How are we going to buck up? Listen. Engage. Figure out where people are along that spectrum and speak to their issues and concerns. Show how you're better than the opposition. Fight harder for change. Then we'll all be ready to vote.
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