(cross-posted at Deny My Freedom and Daily Kos)

Today is Labor Day. The holiday is a simple one – it is meant to be a day of rest for, as well as a tribute to, the hard-working men and women of America. Most Americans will head back to work tomorrow, having enjoyed their day off. It will seem like any other day for most of us. Here in Phiadelphia, it’s supposed to be raining again. But for those of us who follow politics, tomorrow marks a beginning of sorts, the final dash to the finish line for campaigns all around the country. Candidates will be out on the stump everyday, advertisements will flood our television screens, and direct mailings and solicitations for donations will be deposited in our mailboxes. And from tomorrow, September 5, until Election Day, November 7, it will be a political whirlwind, of which the results won’t be known until the dust settles the day after.

And for each and every one of us in the blogosphere, to those of us that have taken our knowledge of politics beyond a mere glance at the evening news or the morning newspaper, it is our duty to do everything we can to make sure this madness in our country comes to an end. There are no excuses for not doing so.

Why were we in this fight in the first place? Because terrible leaders are doing terrible things to our country and calling this wonderful. Because radical reactionaries are trying to impose their imperialist schemes on whoever they wish and calling this just. Because amoral oligarchs are determined to enhance their slice of the economic pie and calling this the natural order. Because flag-wrapped ideologues want to chop up civil liberties and call this security. Because myopians are in charge of America’s future.
-Meteor Blades, Don’t Mourn, Organize, Wednesday, November 3, 2004

I was politically aware when I was in high school a few years ago, but I didn’t become politically active until I arrived at college at the end of the 2004 summer. Watching Arnold Schwarzeneggar taunt the Democratic Party as ‘girly-men’ at the RNC in New York City and seeing thousands of desensitized human beings mocking John Kerry’s Purple Hearts with Band-Aids convinced me that it wasn’t enough to simply sit on my ass and sound off to those who were close around me. It was clear that the country needed to be pulled out of the dark depths the Bush administration had put it through, and I felt obligated to do my part. I’ve never been the kind who felt a real patriotism before, and I don’t pledge allegiance to our flag. But I did (and do) pledge allegiance to the ideals of America. The freedoms we have held dear for centuries, the millions who have died to ensure that those freedoms endured, the great leaders, Democratic and Republican, that we have had over the years – it was to them that I was compelled into action. I phonebanked for Kerry/Edwards in Philadelphia, canvassed in the suburbs for the Democratic ticket, and volunteered much of my time to the 2004 PA-Sen Democratic candidate, Joe Hoeffel, even though it was going to be an uphill battle against the incumbent, Arlen Specter. I skipped out on far too many classes, studied much too little, but it was worth it. Why? Because I felt like I was fighting for something bigger than myself, bigger than a set of numbers and letters that, at that stage in my life, wouldn’t affect me so much.

We lost on 11/2. Came in second place in a crucial battle whose damage may still be felt decades from now. The despicable record of our foes makes our defeat good reason for disappointment and fear. Even without a mandate over the past four years, they have behaved ruthlessly at home and abroad, failing to listen to objections even from members of their own party. With the mandate of a 3.6-million vote margin, one can only imagine how far their arrogance will take them in their efforts to dismantle 70 years of social legislation and 50+ years of diplomacy.

I spent all of 11/2 doing visibility, GOTV, and canvassing on Penn’s campus. In the end, our efforts helped drive turnout on campus 200% above the levels in the 2000 presidential election, and we delivered roughly 80% of Penn’s vote for Kerry. Watching the returns into the late night, I couldn’t fathom why the results in Florida and Ohio, the two swing states upon which the Democratic Party had hung their hopes, were looking worse and worse by the hour. I eventually went to sleep at 4 in the morning, but in my heart, I knew we had lost. And it hurt. Some of us were angry, some of us were mad as hell, but it was hard watching John Kerry concede the afternoon of November 3. He was far from the perfect candidate – whether it be his verbal missteps on Iraq or his inadequate response to the Swift Boat liars – but in the end, as much as he failed us, we had failed him as well. Despite giving what we thought were our best efforts, we had still fallen short. No matter how much money poured in from the 527s, no matter how many times we highlighted Bush’s failures, it still hadn’t been enough.

Still, Tuesday was only one round in the struggle. It’s only the end if we let it be. I am not speaking solely of challenging the votes in Ohio or elsewhere – indeed, I think even successful challenges are unlikely to change the ultimate outcome, which is not to say I don’t think the Democrats should make the attempt. And I’m not just talking about evaluating in depth what went wrong, then building on what was started in the Dean campaign to reinvigorate the grassroots of the Democratic Party, although I also think we must do that. I’m talking about the broader political realm, the realm outside of electoral politics that has always pushed America to live up to its best ideals and overcome its most grotesque contradictions.

So we grieved for a couple of months. I felt more depressed that winter than I had any other year. The cold weather seemed colder, the night seemed more foreboding, more everlasting. It was difficult to see any reason for optimism when Bush rolled the bankrupcty bill and ‘tort reform’ right through Congress after his second term began. But the blogosphere didn’t roll over, as some may have thought. I think we all rose to Meteor Blades’ challenge afterwards. ‘What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’ is an adage we truly lived up to. The Democrats stopped the bleeding with a unified stance on Social Security. We retained the New Jersey and Virginia governorships in 2005, as well as winning in areas we had never won before on the local level. Our support of longshot candidates like Paul Hackett and Francine Busby forced the GOP to spend so much money that they now trail us badly in fundraising. Just today, the Democrats presented a unified stance on beginning the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq before the end of this year. Several of our supported candidates, such as Jon Tester and Ned Lamont, are in a strong position as they head into the general election. We have chances to win in places we wouldn’t have thought of dreaming of winning 2 years ago, such as Idaho and Wyoming. We lost in 2004, but it was only one round of the neverending struggle.

So, as Democrats decide over the next weeks on how to vote on John Bolton, domestic spying, and other critical items, I’d remind them that time is cruel, unrelenting, and unforgiving.  There cannot be any acquiescence to a reality that we hope is only temporary, for nothing, absolutely nothing in life (including a Democratic majority) is guaranteed, no matter how long you wait for it. So act. Now.   As Keith Olbermann said, this is still a democracy, “sometimes just barely.”  Let us act with the courage and urgency that this broken democracy deserves.
-Georgia10, The Time For Action, Sunday, September 3, 2006

But having great candidates and having more money doesn’t mean we will win these races. In the end, putting boots on the ground, putting voices on the phones, and putting volunteers in the campaign offices will be what makes us prevail. Democracy is by the people, for the people. For us – the few who know the political landscape and understand that the 2006 elections is our last chance to truly nullify the last 2 years of the Bush agenda – it is our responsibility, our duty, to spread the word to the many. Talk about your local and statewide Democratic candidates. Make sure that they know that the bleeding, literally and metaphorically, has to stop. The madness that the Republican Party has cast on America must come to an end. Don’t spend your weekends blogging – spend them canvassing or phonebanking or doing data entry. Don’t buy that extravagant luxury; give a little extra to a Democrat who could use the money. In short, take action. Get involved. We somehow managed to survive the first 6 years of the Bush administration. I don’t think America can take another 2 years of unmitigated GOP control.

So today, we rest. But tomorrow, we fight. And we don’t rest until we win.

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