I remember Dad telling me in the Summer of 1968 that if Richard Nixon was elected President, we'd have to leave the country. Or at the very least, buy a gun. Yeah, crazy way to talk to your 11-year-old son, but he was overwrought with fear of what a Nixon presidency might mean to the country. I knew enough to take the emigration thing with a grain of salt, while throwing out the gun reference entirely. I also understood that he wouldn't talk that way unless there really was something to be afraid of.
But we didn't leave the country. Or buy a gun. We protested. We organized. Dad's fiery emotions and high blood pressure led to a fatal heart attack just about a year after Nixon got elected. The rest of the family just kept fighting the good fight. Nixon finally self-destructed and was forced to resign in disgrace in 1974.
I find myself repeatedly reminiscing about that period in American political and personal familial history these days, this day in particular, The Day After Election Day 2010. Because while we took a notable step forward as a nation with the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, here we are two years later taking two steps back.
In Florida, it's looking about as bad as can be. Rick Scott, a pathological liar and fraud who has somehow escaped indictment is now the new Republican governor of Florida. This is the guy whose health care company was caught stealing billions from taxpayers and the Feds. And he has an all-GOP cabinet to work with now. And a more than ever Republican-dominated state legislature whose leadership proudly classifies it as "hard right-wing conservative".
I look at my 5-year-old daughter and think about the kinds of regressive economic and social policies the Republican Party of Florida and the national GOP stand for these days. And sure, I start channeling my late father. Fortunately, the only parts of the transmission that get through are righteous indignation, and a passion for social justice.
I'll be honest; my wife and I have talked in weaker moments about where we'll move to if things go too far in the wrong direction in Florida, and America. And it sure as hell does feel like we're on a very rocky, dangerous road that should have been closed down and barricaded a long time ago. But for now anyway, we will not be emigrating to Finland. Hell, we won't even be moving to Massachusetts. And we won't be buying a rifle or rocket launcher.
What we will do and what we hope other progressive Democrats will do, in order, is:
- Exhale, get a little sleep, spend time with the family and have a little fun
- Figure out how and where we can be most effective in the struggles ahead
- Unite with other progressive Democrats to build a better mousetrap
- Develop better strategy, organizing & communications tools NOW for 2012
- Put the 2012 plan in motion in the winter of 2011
No more running away from Democratic achievements and accomplishments on behalf of working families and what remains of the American Middle Class. No more waffling. No more waiting till Election time to do the grassroots organizing, messaging & communications work it takes to build, engage and activate a base. No more concessions to an opposition party as disingenuous and destructive as the Republicans have become. No more letting solid candidates like Kendrick Meek twist in the wind while disloyal Democratic officials dampen enthusiasm and turnout with rank-breaking defections.
And if the Democratic Party establishment at the national and state levels cannot embrace that kind of winning formula, than we at the local level will build alternate mechanisms as necessary. If we build it and it works, they will come. And we will start winning again.
Resolved. No more giving or losing ground. Or, to go to Springsteen:
"Once we made a promise we swore we'd always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Blood brothers in a stormy night
With a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender"
Dad would have dug The Boss, and that song. But If he was in fact still here to suffer through this awful election and was listening to my chosen anthem of the moment on an iPod I'd have forced on him for Father's Day...something tells me that this time around, he'd be doing so while sitting on an airplane.