Perhaps it is because I am worn out with too many AP students - 109 in 3 sections, 38,33,38, and I view my responsibility towards them as inspiring them to care about our politics and government so that they will participate and make a difference.
Perhaps it is because I like and admire people like Raul Grijalva, who came out in support of Obama because he believed in a candidate who was promising something different.
Perhaps it is because we have elections in Virginia this year - Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates, that I know and like all three Dems running statewide, and know that what happens in Washington in the next month or so will have a huge impact upon the future of the government in the Commonwealth in which I have lived for 27 years.
All of this is preface. For what I have to say, you will have to go below the fold.
If what we are going to get is the 21st century version of triangulation, then I wonder why I even bother to do the things I have - writing, speaking, phone calls, teaching.
If the lesson learned from the health care debacle of the Clinton era when Rahm Emanuel was last in the White House is that a weak bill that addresses none of the key issues is better than nothing, then I wonder if Emanuel has forgotten that Clinton's problems did not begin with health care, but when he cut off the legs of Bruce Babbitt at Interior on grazing fees and the words went around the Hill that the new president could be rolled if people stood up to him.
I thought we were electing someone to lead. We were told that change comes from the bottom up. We were challenged to make our voices heard. In a sense we were presented with a 21st century version of FDR's famous statement, "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." We have made our voices clear on so many issues before this - on DADT, on torture and accountability, on Iraq and Afghanistan - and on health care that if we could not have true single payer then at least we had to have a meaningful public option. We have written, we have organized, we have called, we have lobbied on behalf of the issues we were told during the campaign were important.
One by one they have been bargained away.
We worked hard to get to 60 Senate votes - with the final victory of Al Franken and the switch of Arlen Specter, in theory we have that magic number, but our Senate leadership has been afraid to hold Republican feet to the fire - to call their bluffs on filibusters, to make them demonstrate their recalcitrance to the American people.
I said this was a personal statement. I speak for no one except myself.
I am watching and listening. I will continue to watch and listen, through the statement to the joint session of Congress next week.
If there is no public option, I will no longer support this administration.
What is there left to support?
On education policy, about which I care deeply, I am afraid that I have to agree with Diane Ravitch that Arne Duncan has turned out to be Margaret Spellings in drag - the policies coming from the Dept. of Education have the real potential to destroy what is left of American public education.
On torture and accountability - if we are not going to prosecute those who acted within the improper legal guidance they were given, why are we not prosecuting those who gave the clearly inappropriate and illegal commands in the first place? And by the way, if following orders was an unacceptable defense for we prosecuted in Nuremberg and other tribunals after WWII, how can we allow it to stand for wrongdoing by our own officials, petty or high?
Why is John Brennan in charge of interrogation policy, when he was an official in the CIA during the time of the abuses and did nothing to stop them? If morale of CIA personnel is important, what about those who tried to do the right thing in an agency being politically manipulated in the last administration, what does that say to them?
Why is Ben Bernacke's reappointment being announced before there is a complete examination of the actions of the Fed in the buildup to the crisis, and whether or not there was favoritism in how bailout funds were given to financial institutions?
The items I could add to this list are too many. I am sure others can add their own.
We had an opportunity to truly change our politics, our government, our society.
Every time I turn on the tv and hear the next trial balloon on policy, representing yet another abandonment of what I thought we were being promised, I look at the young people who were energized but who now see their hopes being dashed and begin to see signs of real dissolution. Already in Virginia we have seen major fall off in Democratic enthusiasm, and I do not think it is just election weariness - it is also because some who labored hard are wondering what they gained in return.
Yes, we got a decent Supreme Court Appointment. That was not negotiable.
But many other appointments still linger. And far too many Bush officials still continue in office - US Attorneys, anyone?
Health care became personal for me this summer went I went to the RAM event in Wise. 30 days from now I will be in a similar event a mere 60 miles away from their, in Grundy. Next year I will again be in Wise. I come to believe that my volunteering to assist the dentists in triage is a far more meaningful activity than anything I can do in politics.
I have been a political creature my entire adult life, and most of my adolescence. I am close to being ready to walk away from it.
I find that I can barely manage to watch Keith and Rachel, as I find myself outraged and disappointed and anger.
And if I am feeling like this, what then will be the impact on the broader American populace who thought they were voting for real change if what we get is the mind set that a bad bill - with no public option, no meaningful control on insurance company profits, and possibly not even a real ban on rescission and applying preexisting conditions as a means of denying coverage - is more important than having the honest fight for meaningful health care reform, then the current Democratic control in Washington will be very shortlived, and justifiably so.
I have continued to teach government during a period when much of what we believed about America was justifiably called into question by the actions of the previous administration, and the failure of the Democratic leadership to fully confront the wrongdoing that was evident. At one point I disagreed strongly with Nancy Pelosi, making a statement that I and some others chose to use as a sig - If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy. Someone made up some bumper stickers - white letters on a stark black background. When they didn't sell, he sent me what he had left. I put one on my car. My wife thinks it looks strange. I don't. The principle still applies, even during a Democratic administration which however disappointing it may be has not come close to the impeachable offenses of its predecessor. My having it on my car was a sign that I still believed the American system of government could function.
In teaching I have tried to inspire students to participate because by participating they could make a difference.
Right now my ability to believe that our actions can make a difference is hanging by a very thin thread. If the President does not come out forcefully on behalf of meaningful health reform in his remarks to Congress next week, that thread will snap. If he will not listen to the many progressives in the House who have drawn a line on the public option, then why should he listen to us? And then how many of them will be willing to truly stand up, and being willing to block a bill without a public option? Perhaps that might be the only thing that could reattach that strand, that could motivate me to support those like Raul Grijalva who are actually showing some courage on this important issue.
This is a personal statement. It is also something I wish I never had to consider. I thought it was bad enough when the Senate went along with the Military Commissions Act, when our Democratic leader in the House refused to assert accountability for the wrongdoing of the last administration.
This is potential far more devastating, because our hopes were raised. Perhaps we expect too much? If that is the response, then my rejoinder is, why the hell did we work so hard to make a difference, if we are now to be told they we expected too much?
I am frustrated, angry, disappointed. I suspect I am far from alone. My heart aches for those like nyceve and slinkerwink who have been working their hearts out on the issue of healthcare and may now see their hopes dashed. I wonder about those who did hundreds of door knocks and thousands of phone calls, who gave more money than they could afford, and now have to wonder, "what for?"
Oh yes, there are certainly things better than an administration of McCain and Palin. But that is a pretty low bar to jump over, and I think we have a right to expect - no, to DEMAND - far more.
So now I can only wait until Wednesday night. I wish I had the time to lobby, but I must fulfill my responsibility to my students. I will send the obligatory emails to those electeds I know, supporting those like Grijalva who are standing up for what is right, challenging those who might be wavering. But I am not their constituent, only an acquaintance. I will offer my voice, but the doubts I have about the effectiveness of my voice are increasing even as I write these words.
Often I send out a link to my diary so that acquaintances will know what I have posted. I will not do that with this posting. I will tweet the title, but that is all. I suspect it will disappear rather quickly. After all, the title is not informative, and who really cares what one aging teacher thinks about issues like this.
I felt I had to write it, even as my thoughts are too disorganized, perhaps because what I am contemplating are two things I thought I would never consider - leaving politics and leaving teaching of government. Whatever I do I want it to be meaningful, to have some chance of making a difference. It is also why I write.
And at this moment I feel exhausted and disappointed and as if what I am doing is of little purpose.