Fighting Our Wars, Paying Our Debts

Well perhaps this is the year that they decide to do the third thing—making some decisions for themselves.

Whom, you may ask, am I referring to? Namely, that vast group of young people and uninvolved individuals who for too long have been AWOL from the crucial moment in any democracy: electing the guy who is going to make the big decisions. They fight our wars, the young, and they certainly are going to pay in a big way for the sins of the fathers and mothers in the current financial implosion. It is now very heartening to see them showing up.

More than 100,000 of them, new voters, have registered in our county since the February primary—this is indeed astonishing. Most of these have done so in the last month! It presages a record turnout, not seen since the savage and depressing year of 1968, with our country mired in a savage, endless, politically cynical war, and two of our noblest leaders struck down by assassin’s bullets.  As Yogi said, “Déjà vu all over again.” And it’s a shame to see the repeat.

But there is much to be hopeful about. I look at this as a marvelous occurrence and give much of the credit to Sen. Obama. He has struck a deep chord of emotion and involvement in young people and even some older ones; he has touched people with the hope of a brighter and more idealistic future; he has displayed a notable calm and demeanor, a Presidential temperament, that reassures as it impresses.

Two nights ago, I was phone banking for a local candidate and was very shocked by the responses. Now calling people at dinner time and asking for a few moments of their time is usually as fruitful as answering a door for a Jehovah’s witness on Sunday morning when you’re striving to finish the lawn work. But surprise, surprise, I was heartened by the many people who took time, engaged, and offered comments. It was a wonderful night to see a little democracy in action. Many in my sampling had Hispanic and Indian names; all seemed quite young (to me that’s under 40) and anxious to talk about issues.

I have never had such a positive feeling in the many phone banks and outreach efforts that I have participated in. I am happy and enthusiastic about Nov. 4, not only because we need a change, desperately, in Washington, but also because the new involvement of so many gives rise to feelings of renewed hope and excitement about those that do the work, make the sacrifices and bear the burdens,  and who are now taking the final step—voting in the election.



  1. Wow! Great piece! I’m glad to see you are moved. Could it be that McEnery is seeing the light.  For the sake of San Jose and this Vallley, I hope so.  You Tom, have the ability as well to create positive change. So I hope to read more positive things here in SJI.

  2. On the national level I am encouraged.  Locally, I am depressed.  Yesterday I voted and the ballot was quite discouraging: Zoe Lofgren, Jim Beall, and Joe Simitian all up for reelection with no real challengers. Do these three even know there is an election?  I would love once to see each of them defend their record against a viable opponent.

  3. From your profession and enthusiasm for populism, I’m glad you enjoy phone banking. I did some for Mayor Reed, I’m glad I did it, I’m glad he won . . . but never again. I hated it.

    You touch on the changing demographics here: hispanic or Indian names means under 40. I am not overly pro or anti imiigrant—I have my complaints about overseas jobs and foreign trained professionals, racially monolithic neighborhoods, and foreign transplants who scream INCLUSIVENESS! DIVERSITY! while they sit in their all-ethnic neighborhoods eating only their foods, with no friends outside their race. But the upside is this: I am very excited by multi-racial democracy.

    As we become less white and more Indian / Asian / hispanic, think of how much harder it will be to monolithically railroad voters into an unjust war. How much harder it will be to launch an attack campaign that speaks to all voters. How much harder it will be to fool all of the people, all of the time.

    If you think about it, this is the second coming of the Founding Father’s principles. It may be harder to get us all going the same direction, but when we do it will be for something very, very compelling. And when we’re all minorities, it is that much harder to have a tyranny of the majority.

  4. Kenny,
    You make some excellent points. There are some themes like raising taxes that will always apply no matter what ethnic group you’re talking about, but I agree,
    “It may be harder to get us all going the same direction, but when we do it will be for something very, very compelling. And when we’re all minorities, it is that much harder to have a tyranny of the majority.”

  5. I share your optimism that things will improve on the National level, but what are we going to do at the local level?
    Last night, the Council proved very little has changed from the Gonzo days. Labor continues to pull the strings and the Council and Administration do what they are told. Under the guise of “living wage” the Council completely caved-in and ignored their own policies.
    The dark days have apparently never left. What happened to our hopes for real leadership with a new mayor and a new city manager? Guess it’s back to the drawing boards.

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