The reason I was not on The Cycle Friday is because I was having a baby. My new baby boy, Lowell, was due Monday, but he had other ideas.
Strange things happen to me when I give birth. When my daughter was born in March of 2008, I decided to run for Congress (take that Paul Tudor Jones). Something about the timing of Ella’s birth on the day before the 2008 Ohio presidential primary where we were living at the time and the way that motherhood made me focus on the big problems that we were set to leave to the next generation, which led me to take that particular leap of faith.
Now, as I’m set to become a mother again, I feel that familiar pull and sense that we are at a critical crossroads. The difference is that this time, I can no longer convince myself that another election is the answer. The news from Washington is depressing. Republicans appear to have completed their post-election soul searching and settled back into their comfort zone of flinging accusations at the president. The one issue where we were really hopeful we’d see action, immigration, is looking more and more like it will be swallowed by the same Washington black hole that ate infrastructure investment, education improvement, addressing inequality, climate change, and virtually every other big problem that our nation faces. Pause for a moment to consider the fact that columns are being written and words spent praising the bold action of the president for attempting to fill judicial vacancies and appointing a personal adviser. Bold! Aggressive! Defiant! Really?
When the president first ran for office, he said “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” We elected him in a burst of energy and then waited for him to change the country. And he has done important things, like health care reform, the stimulus and ending Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. But at the end of the day, we are the one’s we’ve been waiting for. We elected this president. And in generations past, we felt our own power. We fought for school desegregation and an end to Jim Crow and we won. We can fight again for things we care about. We can make a difference.
Why do so many of us get so invested in elections? Because we feel that we are engaging, doing our part. Why do so many Americans go to church? To feel part of a bigger community, engaged in something larger than ourselves. Activism and radicalism has been our true heritage since our founding. Now is the time to claim it. It’s time to stop looking for a savior and to look at ourselves. In the words of Dr. Seuss in that famed radical pamphlet The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better it’s not.”
As I head out for maternity leave, these are the words I’ll be pondering. I hope you will too.