Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Day I Realized I Wasn't a True Democrat

I actually wrote this blog last September on the day that I returned from the Democratic National Convention as a Kentucky delegate. Several of you have asked to see this again, and it naturally lends itself to a daily act of activism.  So I'm re-submitting this as...  (And how cool, I get to sleep in tomorrow!)

Act #49: Cross Party Lines

Following the perfect storm of unexpected conditions that involved my underrepresented census status, being in the right place, knowing the right people, at the right time, I haphazardly found myself on a plane, on my way to Charlotte, NC as one of 73 delegates from the bluegrass state. I can’t tell you just how much sleep I lost in anticipation of my departure. You see, ever since I entered adulthood, I was weak to the magnetic, electric pull of the Democratic political machine. I was that girl who drove all the way to Washington, DC to protest against the war in Iraq. The girl who paid $150 just to be in a room with possibly the nation’s first female president, Hillary Clinton. The girl that stood in line, in the rain, for two hours just to hear the voice of then senator from IL that would soon change U.S. history, presidential-hopeful, Barack Obama. Being a delegate to the Democratic National Convention was like a dream come true, the chance of a lifetime, and I could hardly contain myself.

So there I found myself, in the midst of it all. On the first day alone, I came face to face with California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Vice Chair of the DNC, Donna Brazile, and Wisconsin Senate hopeful,Tammy Baldwin who could become the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate. I savored every speech, every panel, every caucus like I was at a rock concert and I had somehow scored a free unlimited pass with front stage access to all of my favorite bands, except these were my long-time feminist role models. Everywhere I turned, there were people who actually looked like me, who cared about the same things I did - accessible health care, policies impacting women, equal rights for the LGBT community, eliminating poverty, protecting the environment, and educational access.
Every day, the crowds would be brought to their feet with spirited enthusiasm. Flags would wave fervently, and witty political signs would magically appear at just the right moment. Delegates from all over the country would chant “U.S.A.!” , “Yes, We Can!”, and “Fired up and Ready to Go!” in unison. Every time the opponent’s name was mentioned, we would boo with disdain. We were the Democratic party and we were here because we cared about the country and by golly, we were going to show you just how much we meant that.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it hit me like a ton of red, white, and blue bricks. Hard. You see, the week before,the Republicans gathered in Tampa, FL doing the same exact thing. Maybe the platform was slightly different. But they too chanted in unison, rolled out a plan that they believed would change the course of the country. They too were there because they cared, were passionate, and wanted to impact change. All of a sudden, I felt like I was in a cult that only 50% of my friends had access to. Suddenly, the chanting of “U.S.A.!” felt more like ethnocentric arrogance than patriotism. The thought of me waving the witty political signs that magically appeared, felt unauthentic (we weren’t allowed to bring our own signs) and staged. And the booing of Mitt Romney, pitting “us”against “them”...well, felt animalistic, uncouth, and left no room for what I truly longed for to my very core - partnership and cooperation.

So there I was at the single most electrifying political event I will ever experience in my lifetime…and I felt completely and utterly out of place. And like a fraud. Don’t get me wrong, I will probably always vote Democratic because I personally align so closely with the party’s platform, social policies, inclusion of underrepresented groups, and advocacy for the rights of women and the LGBT community. But as we complain about grown men in congress unable to play well together on the playground, stalling critical legislation that impacts health care reform,victims’ rights, the economy - are we really any better at these political conventions,by framing our entire country in the context of a highly-anticipated NFL game, complete with banners, party hats, and noise-makers, where fans of opposing teams can’t even sit next to one another? Where our perspectives are increasingly polarized, our opinions increasingly combative, and our rhetoric dangerously divisive?

How on earth will we as a country ever accomplish anything of substance without sitting down together, at the same table and stop yelling long enough to……………..wait for it……………listen? Yes, I’ve been called naive and unrealistic about the ways of the world. They will never listen to us. They will never understand us. You, Jane, aren’t even invited to the table as a pro-choice woman of color who supports gay rights.

Bleak as it all may seem, this is the greatest hope I have for myself, and for my five-year old son: hope for basic human respect of differences in thought. Hope for non-partisan cooperation. And hope for ashared willingness to come together - regardless of political affiliation - to work for the common good. Now that’s something that would make me jump to my feet, compel me to wave a universal flag of peace, and move me to chant in unison with my Republican brothers and sisters, “Yes We Can!” (or “We Did Build This!”)

President Eisenhower once said: Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead us to the dawn of eternal peace. Call me an idealist, but I’m not ready to give up on that notion yet. So that’s why it’s getting harder and harder for me to call myself a Democrat. Not because I don’t perfectly align with the party’s platform, and not because I don’t have the utmost respect for the party leaders, volunteers, and supporters who are deeply committed to working tirelessly to make the world a better place. But I fear that by labeling myself in that way, or in any way, I’ve automatically shut the door to any potential possibility of constructive cooperation…with my Republican, Libertarian, and even (gasp!)Tea Party counter-parts.

In case you’re wondering, I’m still a registered Democrat, and will probably always be. And yes, I will cast my vote for Barack Obama in November. But I think I’m going to call Mitch McConnell on Monday and ask him to join me for lunch - to talk about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and how together, we can help protect and change the lives of countless women in our great state. I’ll even leave my “Yes We Can” button at home. This time.


  1. From a fellow Berean, I just wanted to say that I love this blog!!

    1. Love fellow Bereans. Especially the ones who are optimistic existentialists! Thank you!