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Diary of a disenfranchised Democrat

Ok, I published this a few years ago but with the pundits hopping all over themselves to write President Obama’s most recent obituary, I thought we could use a laugh.  Oh, how the 1990s were just an era of wonderful bipartisanship and hope…

 

There’s been a lot of talk about how President Obama is in trouble with his base.  The narrative goes something like this: liberals are disappointed with Barack Obama’s performance.  Maybe he has been too timid, too hands-off, too much of a law professor when what we neehttp://www.alysonchadwick.com/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?post_id=688&action=grunion_form_builder&TB_iframe=true&width=768&id=add_formded was a scrappy street fighter, willing to go toe-to-toe with an obstructionist Congress and the wiley John Boehner and Eric “Dr. No” Cantor.  Neither Bill or Hillary Clinton would have put up with this malarky.  No, sir.

My friend, Chris Rugaber (you know the AP business writer, if you don’t read his stuff, you should start), sent me this piece: When did liberals become so unreasonable? The idea being, that liberals are never happy with anything.  I dug through my personal papers and the following represent excerpts from my journal.

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Fall 1991:

Dear Diary,

My mom and I were talking about what Democrats will run for president next year.  Seems pointless to me.  George Bush is just so dang popular, what with that stupid Iraq war and all.  I like Paul Tsongas a lot but, seriously, another liberal, Greek from Mass?  That’s never gonna happen.  I said Bill Clinton is the only viable candidate.  She thinks his performance at the 1988 Democratic Convention will do him in, they did lower him off the stage and all, but I think he’s got a certain “je ne sais quoi.”  I cannot wait to move to France.  If Bush gets reelected, I am going to move there.

Winter 1992

Dear Diary,

Well, I don’t have to move to France.  Bill Clinton is our new president!  We have the White House, the Senate and House of Representatives!  I hear that means a lot!  There’s nothing stopping us now!  We are going to make health care available to everyone!  It’s a good time to be alive!  Diary, you had better not stop thinking about tomorrow!  I know I won’t!1

Spring 1993

Dear Diary,

This has been a sad time for Democrats.  We have a Dem in the White House and control both sides of Capitol Hill but President Clinton’s stimulus package went down in flames in the Senate, damn you filibuster! ( http://www.nytimes.com/1993/04/22/us/gop-senators-prevail-sinking-clinton-s-economic-stimulus-bill.html) Weren’t they paying attention to the It’s the economy, stupid! message?  Hello! I remain hopeful that we can get healthcare reform through, Hillary Rodham, I mean Hillary Rodham Clinton (I keep forgetting she is using his name now!) is heading up the committee for that so I am sure it will go through.  She tried to soften her image with that cookie recipe and my mom swears by her turkey tips (hint: avoid basting by putting bacon on top — saves time and is delicious!) but she’s tough as nails. President Clinton’s lack of foreign policy experience is pretty clear, I sure wish we’d stop the genocide in Bosnia.  Slobodan Molosovic sounds like a dick.

Fall 1993

Dear Diary,

I just cannot shake the feeling that we are fucking up big time here.   If we cannot capitalize on the promise of Bill Clinton, we are totally screwed.  Does he know the damage he is doing to our party and system?  Bosnia remains a mess.  When are we going to help these people?  I hear there’s going to be a new Holocaust museum in Washington, DC, I sure hope they look into Bosnia.  This crap is unacceptable.  None of my friends will even talk to me about it.  And now the crazy “liberal” media seems obsessed with some innocent investments the Clintons made a thousand years ago, I think they’re calling it white-water?  I don’t know why they are so anti-rafting.  Seems like a good hobby to me.

Spring 1994

Dear Diary,

Am so depressed.  Hillary Clinton’s health reform looks to be headed towards disaster!  They say she didn’t consult Congress enough, as if!  What has happened to our party?  I thought we had some guts but I guess not.  Man, Bill Clinton sucks.

Winter 1994

Well, the end of the world is here.  Officially.  The Republicans just took the House back — after about a million years.  The Speaker was the first to lose his seat since we had a speaker.  Healthcare reform died a painful death.  Damn senators act like they should be consulted on policy issues, how rude!  Don’t they know Bill Clinton is a D?  Stupid “liberal” media is still into that rafting crap.  Have they no lives?

Winter 1995

Dear Diary,

Have been too depressed to write.  Bill Clinton has failed us all.  First no action on Bosnia, then health care reform failure and then he was all about welfare reform.  Says that will be his big thing should he win reelection, good luck, jerk.  Thank god for Newt Gingrich.  He was so mean/whiny that he made us look good.  Shut down the government because he was pissed about his seat on AF1.  I sure wish Democrats would grow a pair.

Winter 1997

Dear Diary,

Wow. It’s been a painful few years.  When did Democrats stop being Democrats?  Sure we had a few victories but that’s all because Newt Gingrich is so stupid. And whiny.  Bill Clinton totally caved to the GOP on the last two budgets and welfare reform.  Thank goodness he won reelection, though he seems more like a Republican.  That rafting thing ended up being more of a big deal than I had thought. And now, it looks like he may have had an affair with an intern.  Question:  If you know the world is watching you, can you keep your pants on for five minutes?  No?  Work on it.

January 1998

Dear Diary,

Just got a job in the record industry (publicist for RCA Victor).  All my friends were surprised that I would pick music over politics but it has been hard to be a Dem.  Fr weeks, every day, reading the paper has been a challenge.  But then I was walking down the street and had a thought — why am I upset with Bill Clinton?  He has been a good president.  We have had a near unprecedented period of peace and prosperity.  That has been a good thing.  I am tired of being unhappy with him for stupid crap that doesn’t matter.

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Ok, those aren’t really from my journals, though I am sure I wrote similar things back then.  I remember worrying that Bill Clinton was going to squander the opportunity to do some truly spectacular things with his presidency.  I could not understand why Congress resisted working with him, did they not understand that he and they were in the same party?

It is easy to criticize President Obama for being too hands off when dealing with Congress, his absence from the conversations about the debt ceiling or the super committee’s failure only reinforces the narrative and it is easy to forget that he accomplished more in his first year in office than Bill Clinton.  He also managed to get health care reform, as imperfect as it is, passed.  I would like him to be more of a fighter, to het his hands dirty a little — politics is a dirty business — but that’s not who he is.  That’s also not the person many people voted for.  I am going to try to remind myself of how I felt during the Clinton administration whenever I am tempted to buy into the narrative that says I am supposed to be disappointed in President Obama.

Farewell, Capitol Hill

Politics brought me to Washington, DC.  As I have told countless people, and National Public Radio (story here), I worked on my first campaign when I was eight.  I went door-to-door for a local NY Assemblyman who was running for Congress.  On election night, we went to the campaign headquarters to watch the results come in.  When the areas I canvassed had a huge turnout for my candidate, I thought it was because of my hard work (Who can resist a cute, little girl with red hair and freckles?  The mean woman at the end of the street with the mean and large German Shepard, that’s who.  She had her dog chase me from her property.) and was hooked.

My first job after college was on Capitol Hill — for Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca).   I have lived here most of my time in Washington, DC.  I am obsessed with Congress and the legislative process.   Will always believe that the Senate is like grad school where the House is kindergarten.  And if you have never gotten into watching C-Span coverage of the House of Representatives, well, it can be like a good tennis match.  Rafa Nadal v. Roger Federer good.

Life on the Hill has been a great experience.  This is like a small town in a, well, my frame of reference is New York so, in a small city.  People here really look out for each other.  Case in point, back when I had a landline, I returned from work to get the following messages:

  1. This is your neighborhood watch, we think we saw some suspicious people outside of your place.  Please be careful when you come home.
  2. There are definitely two people outside your apartment and we think there may be a third in the bushes.
  3. We went by again and there are the three people – it looks like they are waiting to rob you, or anyone else, when you get home.  We’re calling the police to report it.
  4. We called the police and they chased everyone away from your place.  They are also keeping a car on the block for the next few hours so you should be fine coming in.  Hope you have a nice night.

I remain relieved that I didn’t get home at anytime before message number four and it could be my inherent, dark personality but that whole exchange left me feeling like my neighbors had my back.  Another time, right after I was mugged, one of my neighbors (this happened right in front of my apartment) made it a point to keep his pitbull, “Precious,” outside in his yard around the time when I usually came home.  People would cross the street to not walk by that dog.

The community feel extends beyond my safety, of course.  When the best dive in the world, the Tune Inn, had a fire last summer, a bunch of us came out and helped clean the place.  We painstakingly took each item from the walls and cleaned it.  Yes, I enjoy my Jameson and like to have it there but that’s not what inspired me to help out.  This really does feel like a community and it was heartwarming to see so many people come out to help each other, that is the point of things, right?  If you go in, make sure you look at the Guy Fieri plaque in the front window.  Then look at the plaque just below it.  You may notice a familiar name. (Thank you, Lisa and Thomas.  I feel like I will always be a part of the Hill.)

So, from the feeling that my drinking water is infused with political knowledge to the fabric of neighbors helping each other and looking out for each other that makes this such a special place.  I make a point to be as impressed as possible when I look up at the Capitol Building because it is a beautiful thing.  This place brings out the Mr. Smith in me (I know you know this but I am referring to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).

So, it was not without a heavy heart that I am moving from this magical place on the hill.  I need a change of scenery for personal reasons that I am sure I will explain in excruciating detail at some point and hope this will force me to do the big things I want to do this year but I love this place and the people who inhabit it.

Thank you, Capitol Hill.  I am not leaving, I am just going part-time!