Every morning since Tuesday has been a bad morning. I expect every morning until 2016 to be a bad morning. We’ve had our post-mortems, as well as every other pundit in the United States.
There’s been enough discussion about what happened, where we might be going, and what we can do about it. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do about it. Fucking nothing. At least not in the big picture.
We’ve talked so many times about “rebuilding”. Every time some tiniest step of progress has been made, powers great and small have lined up and taken it all away. Some of you are inlanders, but the coasties among us know of what I speak; next summer along the shore, head for the low tide line right after low slack tide and build a sandcastle. Place all the things liberals hold dear upon it, and see what happens when the tide turns.
I fear we are now the minority and these are no longer the United States. I am rather famously not a Christian, nor am I an ordinary Caucasian among these shores. (Yes, an American Mongrel, perhaps soon to be a dying breed?) What is going to happen to my future?
I’m going to wait until the first repeal of the Affordable Care Act goes through, and then I plan on calling the Speaker’s office every day and asking for him personally. I have a pre-existing condition; without the ACA, I won’t be able to get insurance, and should my condition recur, I won’t be able to afford treatment. Repeal of the ACA condemns me to death, and I’d like to hear it from the Speaker’s own lips why he sees fit to have me executed.
All Politics is Local, as a former speaker from Massachusetts once famously remarked. I believe it may be time for a new “isolationism”, as it were. But even that won’t be easy. I heard a depressing stat from Thursday’s TRMS. According to the good doctor, 30 states now have Republican majority local government. This Commonwealth is one of only 6 that remain Democratically dominated. But even then there are chinks in the armor; we just send Republican Charlie Baker to the corner office.
But can we really be isolationists awash in a sea of red? I think it may be possible. There’s a vast disconnect in American politics today. I look 450 miles southwest and see the power-players in Washington…so disconnected from reality and ordinary people that they almost seem like caricatures. The rarified air of global issues, vast amounts of corporate wealth, and of course ordinary things like power and influence, don’t really matter to you and me. As Papa TriSec once put it, a politician in Washington is there for two reasons – to make money, and to get re-elected. If along the way, they accidentally do something beneficial, it’s the exception rather than the rule.
But I don’t live in Washington. I do live in the largest apartment complex in a modest city in the Western suburbs of Boston. This is where I CAN actually have influence. Two doors down from me is the Middlesex County Sheriff
, formerly our Representative in General Court. I have literally walked down there, knocked on his door and had a discussion about my issue of the day. He just ran for Congress, but lost. Our kids play on the same soccer team.
A block in the other direction is my Ward Councilor (City Council.
) I’ve known him for years, and again I have walked to his house and raised some concerns in the neighborhood. Through my decades of involvement with youth in this city, I am on a first-name basis with the Mayor, and at least half the City Council. I also know the City Clerk and some other minor officials quite well.
Two blocks in a third direction lives my personal friend – another member of City Council (At Large), and a sitting Representative in General Court (unfortunately not my district.) Our children have been in school together since they both hit Kindergarten, and I’ve worked on his campaigns many times. He wants to run for Mayor in 2015, and I’ve already told him I want his Council seat.
But a curious thing happened – I may not run at all now.
I mentioned my apartment complex. It used to be locally owned, but a number of years ago the family sold out to a national conglomerate. (Home Properties
). Ever since, it’s been in decline; maintenance is deferred, units lay fallow, crime is on the uptick, and the rules and regulations never seem to be followed or enforced. And just try getting something done on an emergent basis, or God forbid, after hours or on a weekend.
We had a tenant’s association for years, but the folks that ran it tangled with management so often, they were eventually forced to move. Ever since then, it feels like my neighborhood has been in a death-spiral. I myself have witnessed dead-drops and drug deals; there’s been a murder here, and recently we had construction problems and a strangely quiet Halloween.
This has all sparked me into trying to organize again, and this is where that local, isolationist angle finally comes into play. I’d love to run for office. I have twice already, neither time with much success. But I don’t think my strength would be as a candidate. It’s all about that power and influence. Do I want to be a player? Maybe. But it’s far more important and useful to me to be a ‘keystone’. We’re all familiar with the idealized story of Paul Revere. But his backstory is actually more compelling. Sure, Paul rode from Cambridge to Concord, warning people along the way that the Regulars were out. But Paul knew where to go, what to say, and most important of all, who to tell.
I feel like this is me – I know who to tell. I know where to go. I may not know what to do…but I know who does. Community Organization is a powerful thing – it could even be the path to the Presidency. But it is the essence of “Politics is Local”. I can’t influence anyone in Washington. I am literally John Q. Public here – I don’t exist in that rarified air or deep pocket atmosphere in the halls of power.
So this is why I say a new isolationism is needed. Washington doesn’t care about you or me anymore. But your Town Manager, your Ward Councilor, and maybe a State Representative or two, these are the people that maybe can be responsive to what we’re telling them, and maybe they might actually be able to help.
This is the isolationism of which I speak. I can’t pick up the phone and talk to the President. But on my street…with my neighbors…and my contacts at the City and State…if you need your lights fixed, a car towed, or an issue raised before City Council…I suddenly have all the power and influence I need to get something done.
That kind of isolationism – isolated from the National scene, where none of us have influence, is the work that’s worth doing. If Washington can’t fix something, maybe I can do it in my own backyard.