A few weeks ago, I was accused of “repeating Bush/Cheney cabal/right-wing talking points.” Another comment of mine prompted the response, “It's refreshing to see right-wing talking points get uprated.”
That’s funny. Most people who know me in reality would say that I’m a left-of-center Democrat, and with good reason – because that’s what I am.
It’s April 1984. My buddy and I spend an evening handing out Gary Hart pamphlets at our polling precinct for the Pennsylvania primary. I’m 16 years old. He loses the primary to Walter Mondale, who goes on to win Minnesota and finish in second place in the other 49 states in November’s general election.
It’s the summer of 1984. My father, who’s an Italian immigrant, and I are watching Gov. Mario Cuomo’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Five minutes into the speech, we realize we’re watching greatness unfold. We beckon my mother and brother to join us, and we all watch the greatest speech we’ve ever heard, a speech that touches me like none I’ve heard since, a speech that puts best why I’m a Democrat:
It's an old story. It's as old as our history. The difference between Democrats and Republicans has always been measured in courage and confidence. The Republicans -- The Republicans believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail. "The strong" -- "The strong," they tell us, "will inherit the land."
We Democrats believe in something else. We Democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact, and we have more than once. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees -- wagon train after wagon train -- to new frontiers of education, housing, peace; the whole family aboard, constantly reaching out to extend and enlarge that family; lifting them up into the wagon on the way; blacks and Hispanics, and people of every ethnic group, and native Americans -- all those struggling to build their families and claim some small share of America.
It’s 1988. I’m in college. My friends and I go to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center a few days before the election to hear Mike Dukakis speak. We work our way to the front of the crowd and shake his hand. We’re thrilled.
A few days later, Dukakis wins 10 states and silver-medals in 40 others.
It’s 1992. I’m newly married. My wife and I live in an apartment in the Pittsburgh suburbs. It’s a largely Republican area. But one Saturday morning in September, as we’re pounding in Clinton/Gore signs along a highway, we get honks and thumbs-up from passersby.
We’re stunned and elated. It occurs to us that the so-called “Republican lock” on the White House was about to be picked by our boy Bill.
Nov. 3, 1992. I see a Democrat reach 270 for the first time since I was nine years old.
It’s 1996. Clinton’s re-election is never in doubt, but we still volunteer and celebrate on election night.
It’s 2000. My family and I gather at my mother’s house for what we know is going to be a tense night. At first, there’s joy. Florida’s blue! It’s just a matter of waiting till 11:00 p.m. to make it official. Get the champagne ready! We’ve dodged a huge bullet! And then…well, we all know that tale of woe.
I damn near cried when they took Florida away from Gore.
And I’m sure this is just a coincidence, but the night Gore conceded, I was suffering from food poisoning. I sat on my couch, watching Gore give his gracious speech, feeling like I had one foot in the grave. I think writers refer to this as “foreshadowing.”
2000-2008: Crying and vomiting turned out to be the right response toward the Bush years.
It’s 2004. We convince ourselves John Kerry could win. We had hope on election night. Then, Ohio breaks our heart. My family and I sit in stunned silence. The feeling in my mother’s den is funereal.
It’s 2008. We take our then-7-year-old out to knock on doors the night before the election – not because we’re worried about losing but because we want him to say someday, “I volunteered for Barack Obama.”
It’s 2012. Ohio makes up for its 2004 transgression and brings pandemonium to my household.
The problem some of you apparently have is that there are folks on this site – and in the real world – who are left-of-center Democrats who are also Obama supporters. Has he made mistakes? Of course. Have I criticized him when it’s warranted? Yep. But good heavens, people, the good outweighs the bad ten thousandfold.
Just because we disagree with you doesn’t make us Dick Cheney.
So, please, stop questioning my Democratic bona fides.