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Now Is No Time for Despair
By Rafael Mandelman, President, Noe Valley Democratic Club
Even now I am inclined to think T. S. Eliot had it all wrong. In 2004, at least for Noe Valley Democrats, November was definitely the cruelest month. Losing is never fun, but writing as one who has supported more than my share of losing candidates, I must say that John Kerry's defeat was particularly bitter for me.
I do not think it was simply that this election seemed a test of our country's character, and one that we collectively failed. I do not think it was simply that by November I had convinced myself that John Kerry had so very much potential to be as excellent a president as George Bush has proved to be a disastrous one. I do not even think it was just the prospect of four more years of military adventuring abroad and social irresponsibility at home. It was of course all of these things.
But even more, I think November's election result was so depressing because it seemed that so many of us had tried so very hard. People had engaged in this election at the grassroots level as never before. Here in Noe Valley, and across the country, we had stood on street corners registering voters, we had thrown house parties for Kerry, we had phone-banked, we had traveled to the battleground states. Even those of us who had never given money to a political campaign in our lives found ourselves writing check after check. It seemed that everyone was doing something, and it seemed that everyone knew someone who was doing something. Together we were saving our country.
Country-saving, however, is a tricky and sometimes disheartening business. For all our efforts, and all our organization, and all our determination, when decision time came, it turned out the other team beat us. And this time, they beat us mostly fair and square; some three million more people were convinced by George Bush and the Republicans than by John Kerry and us. And so we Democrats are left with a most vexing question: now what?
Over the next four years, when we are not raging at conservative talking heads on our television screens explaining that we really are winning in Iraq, that ending Social Security is really the only way to save it, and that a federal guaranty of reproductive freedom is not really all that necessary anyway, we Democrats should have plenty of opportunity to figure out an answer to the questions raised by our defeat in 2004.
Notwithstanding the barrage of bad news from Washington, now is not a moment for despair. Now is a time for hope, and action. Although many of us had convinced ourselves by November that we could win, this was always going to be a difficult election. Incumbents are hard to beat, and incumbents are even harder to beat in a time of war.
Over the next four years, the new organizations that emerged so prominently in 2004-- MoveOn, Democracy for America (a.k.a., the "Deaniacs"), and others--will continue to search for new ways to reach voters. New organizations and institutions will emerge, and indeed are already emerging, to meet and match the Right's effective use and abuse of the television and print media, talk radio, and of course the think tanks. And most importantly, many of us who really engaged with politics perhaps for the first time in 2004 will continue to work to make a country that cares for its poor and sick, advances its youngest, provides for its oldest, and respects and is respected by the rest of the world.
I know that here in Noe Valley the Noe Valley Democratic Club will continue to plot our party's resurgence, and we would welcome your help and company. We meet monthly at the Noe Valley Ministry at 1021 Sanchez Street. In the coming year, we hope to organize forums on Social Security, health care, and the future of the Democratic Party. And of course, you will continue to see us on 24th Street and elsewhere registering voters and promoting our candidates (yes, we will be having another local election this fall). For more information, please call 415-648-4010 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twentieth Street resident Rafael Mandelman has been at the helm of the Noe Valley Democratic Club for two years.
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