Like many other Democrats, I am frequently distressed and disgusted by the Party's performance this year particularly at the national level and specifically when it comes to how the Party anointed its nominee rather than relying on democratic procedures and Democratic Party procedures to actually elect a Presidential candidate to run. Like many other Americans, I am distressed at the America George W. Bush's administration has left us. Like many other Americans, I cannot get behind the policies of McCain-Pailin even as I respect the political acumen and some of the qualities of character the members of that ticket seems to possess. It feels lousy to have no acceptable option at the Presidential level.
But sometimes being forced into an unpleasant situation leads one to creative and innovative ways to transcend that situation both immediately and in the longer term. While desperate times seem to bring out the worst in some people, hard times also can bring out the very best in people.
Some examples from the present. Just today, a group of supporters have made this offer to benefit both victims of Hurricane Ike and The Denver Group's general election ad campaign, Democrats for Principle Before Party. The offer exemplifies the beauty of how generosity can beget generosity, and I reprint it here for the convenience of readers:
A truly progressive match
Various people who support The Denver Group's new initiative Democrats For Principle Before Party have teamed up to help contributors to The Denver Group double the bang for their buck. This group has pledged to donate $550 to organizations providing relief aid to victims of Hurricane Ike. Together they will donate that sum as soon as that amount comes into The Denver Group.
So, if you would like to help Democrats For Principle Before Party AND at the same time help those hardest struck by this hurricane season, now is the time to donate. For instructions on how to do so see the side bar. We will be including both online and snail mail donations for purposes of the match and when we hit the target we will let the group of matchers know - and of course we will announce the success here on our site.
My own match effort in aid of troop families and The Democrats for Principle Before Party ad campaign is making steady progress. For details, go here. The state of the match as of 9:14 p.m., Sept. 13, 2008: $355.00 in - $145 to go!
And it is not only on fundraising for causes where progress is being made. The letter calling upon Senators to affirm their support for Senator Clinton for Majority Leader in 2009 now has 180 signers. To add your name costs no money. (If you want to do so please follow these instructions taken from the effort's homepage: If you would like to sign the letter please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "signer" in the subject line. Your message should included your full name, which we will add to the letter and your state and city and a contact phone number for identification purposes only. Your location and phone number will be kept private and will never appear on this site or any other public site.) See the letter and the list of Clinton delegates who have permitted us to identify them as signers. Whether or not Senator Clinton ultimately were to decide to accept this post were her colleagues to offer it to her, this grassroots efforts to encourage Senator Clinton's peers to give her an opportunity to be the Senate's leading figure is yet more evidence of how hard times can bring out the best in "ordinary" Americans, who use their creativity and their freedoms to try to lead so-called leaders who have last their way.
These are just some of the efforts that people who refuse to walk away from a tough situation are engaged in.
I think it is important to recognize that the effort from people who stick to their principles in the face of hard times is an American tradition as old as the country itself.
To take just one example consider this very famous painting, Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, painted by Howard Chandler Christy:
Learn more about the painting and the details of its significance here (this site is well worth exploring).
In brief, the painting depicts - with some artistic license the signing of the U.S. Constitution, the basic governance document that represents a high point in western democracy: the first modern written constitution that laid out a workable basis for a diverse group of states to come together to form a nation. In that moment, the drafters and signers of the original unamended Constitution put their names to a renewed effort to create a workable balance of power between states and the federal government and the branches of the federal government. These signers showed - during a hard time indeed - that they had the creativity and wherewithal to respond to the difficulties of reconciling the demands of pluralism with the demands of union by going back to the drawing board, dispensing with the Articles of Confederation, and trying something new. Some states and delegations jumped ship, would not ratify or sign the new Constitution of the United States of America. Painter Christy does not show these delegates. The delegates and states he commemorates are those who continued to fight for their cause - the uniting of the states without the sacrifice of diversity and pluralism.
Today's efforts are part of the same tradition: the effort to find a way around obstacles to achieving the vision of a country where Americans of all kinds can feel proud of their country and its government, not only at the federal level but at the state and local levels too.
These are hard times for millions of Democrats and millions of Americans. The political scene at the Presidential level seems to many to be bleak and to be bleaker than it had to be if only this year's DNC had acted with more forethought, wisdom, and courage. The economy gets more alarming by the moment. Natural disasters, much like death and taxes, continue to be with us.
But I for one do not see only the bad times. I see a populace newly energized, determined to take back the Democratic Party and its bests aspects. I see more people engaged in more positive and progressive political and charitable causes than I have for a long time. Yes, I get angry and frustrated about the bad times, especially those foolishly brought about by inadequate, incompetent, cowardly, and selfish so-called leaders. But then I reach down and renew my efforts to replace these people with better ones; to do what I can to connect one American with another as we work toward that goal and ultimately toward bettering our country. As I make those efforts, I realize how many partners I have in these goals. Such a network will succeed. And with a lot of hard work, will take us from the worst of times to the best of times.