I attended the Women’s Caucus with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden featured as the main speakers. As you can imagine, with both FLOTUS and SLOTUS in the house, it made for very tight security.
But spirits inside the caucus room were high. Everyone assembled was eager to drink in the words of these two admirable women who have done so much for military families, who have supported women and girls and all children achieving their best and going on to thrive in college. The women were thrilled to see Michelle Obama, whose rousing opening night speech showed how far she’d come as a brilliant speaker and campaign asset in her own right. They were so excited, they started chants of “Fired up! Ready to go!” long before the first speaker took the podium.
We were treated to the stirring words of many up-and-coming women from the grasstops and Democratic Party insiders, among them, Jehmu Greene. She mentioned how, like many of us, she packed a few gorgeous heels for the DNC, thinking she’d actually get a chance to wear them at some fancy party or another. But what happened was that she spent the entire convention in a pair of comfortable running shoes. And she said, “It’s a metaphor for what we have ahead of us.”
She told us to put our comfy shoes on, because we have a lot of walking and talking to do. We have a lot of convincing and calling and reaching out to everyone we can think of in our main circles of influence, and then to those strangers on the other end of a phone who might be willing to hear us out on why we should re-elect this president.
And it was a perfect set-up for Michelle Obama to lay it on the line: she said (I’m paraphrasing):
In Florida in 2008, we won by 250,000 some votes. Now that may sound like a lot, but that breaks down to about 35 votes in each precinct of the state. Ohio, which we won by a narrower margin in 2008 — about 14,000 votes — works out to about 5 votes per precinct.
That is the margin we’re working with here. And we’re looking at an uphill battle.
Michelle Obama didn’t have to remind us of the voter suppression efforts in the form of demanding an ID of some kind from voters, or other attempts to intimidate or deter people from voting. She didn’t have to say, we have a movement we need to continue not because of the novelty of sweeping in a new president borne aloft on campaign promises, but one rowing the hard oar of governing, and governing is always less dramatic, sexy, or promising than campaigning. In 2008 we had the wind at our backs, sunshine patriots as well as what Sarah Vowell calls the “partly cloudy patriots.”
This time? We’ve all endured financial hardships of some kind or another, or known someone very close to us who did. Some of us who went through the sausage-making of 2009 and the final passage of the Affordable Care Act, then saw Teabaggers swept in on a total lack of attention paid in 2010 are weary. I’m bone-tired, how about you?
The intensifying nuttiness from the right (what passes for the GOP these days) isn’t helping.
But in spite of it all, we have to reach out and bring in at least five if not 35 votes with us to the voting booth. When I get tired, I think about buses headed south to register voters that were set upon by assassins. I think about water cannons turned on citizens, dogs lunging at them to keep them in check. I think of everyone who put their shoulder to the wheel to get the Voting Rights Act passed, and I tell myself: WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS PAPERWORK. WE CAN DO THIS.
We can go get those folks registered and let them know about work that still needs to be done, that’ll only be done if we re-elect President Obama. PAPERWORK. As opposed to murder, church bombings, hoses, jail, and dogs.
We can do this. The last thing Michelle Obama left us with at the Women’s Caucus was this thought: “Come November 7, will we be wondering if there was more we could have done? Or did we do all we could?”
PAPERWORK. WE CAN DO THIS.