Like many progressives, I spent the majority of the last four years feeling disappointed by Obama's presidency.
How pathetically amnesic of us.
In early September, I finally snapped out of it, due to one line from Obama's nomination acceptance speech which, I am quite sure, was designed, delivered and retired for people just like me. I've embedded the video here, and linked to it here.
You see, Obama's right. Four years ago, I was working for David S Rose. Since we both agreed that the election was a monumentally important one, he kindly agreed to let me take a leave of absence from Rose Tech Ventures, and I got on an Amtrak and went back to Ohio to work on the remainder of the campaign.
Now, this was no vacation. Campaigning is hard work - most of the time it totally sucks. Leaving a nice VC job is risky. But work needed to be done. I didn't really want to go door knocking and community organizing back home in Ohio, but I didn't want to have regrets either (remember the fun NoRegrets video I worked on with Fred Graver, Lindsay Campell, and Adam Quirk?)
So I went to Ohio and knocked on hundreds - if not thousands of doors. I organized an election day satellite office across the street from President Grant's birthplace. I brought my friends in from out of town. Drove a car in Obama's motorcade. And most importantly of all: I met a ton of amazing people along the way. (See some photos from the journey here.)
One of those people was Fran Ginn (remember me writing about her and sharing her words when I got back from Ohio four years ago?), and it was Fran I was thinking about last month when Obama reminded me that I Did That.
What did I do?
Why was I in Ohio, skipping out on "the good life" in New York?
I was in Ohio because Fran Ginn's husband had lost his manufacturing job and, since they both had preexisting conditions, they couldn't get health care.
To be blunt: I needed Obama to get elected because I needed American manufacturing to be believed in again and Fran needed a country that didn't tell her she had no right to health care. I believed Obama could do both.
I was also in Ohio because I believed my high school friends over seas in Iraq should be given a plan for coming home.
To be blunt: I needed Obama to get elected because I needed to know there would be an end to a war we shouldn't have been in in the first place. I believed Obama could do that.
I was also in Ohio because, in an era where civil rights for gay Americans was an actual question (on ballots, being debated, etc) and our nation's leading politicians wouldn't say directly and unreservedly that gay American's deserve equal, not separate, rights, we needed bravery and leadership.
To be blunt: I needed Obama to get elected because I needed to live in a country where the person holding the highest office in the land truly believed in equal rights for all and would fight for them.
So when Obama said "You Did That" last month, I was jolted out of my ho-hums about his presidency. To be honest, I was more than disappointed with myself for not realizing this earlier, but when I really thought about it, I couldn't believe what had happened in only one term:
You see, I was in Ohio so Fran could get health care and today she has health care.
I was in Ohio because I wanted to war in Iraq to end (hard to remember, but the McCain alternative was honestly no end in sight). And guess what? That war has ended.
I was in Ohio because I wanted someone to stand up to Don't Ask Don't Tell, and to push back on the Defense of Mariage Act and to publicly say they support gay mariage. And guess what? Obama has done all three things.
How often do the things you care most about, the biggest things a candidate promises to you, actually get done?
In politics, this never happens; not unless you have a politician willing to risk it all to make it happen. And not unless thousands of people like me fight to make sure she or he gets elected, and then fights again to get him or her re-elected.
You see, it's all on the line again. Substitute war in Iraq with war with Iran and Romney has literally promised that we'd go back to the way things were. Laws can get repealed, especially before they've been fully enacted, and so the stakes are very, very high.
This year, I'm not going back to Ohio. My role in my company is too critical this time around. However, I'm giving as much money as I can. If you think your tweet or wall post is enough to get this job done, you're completely wrong. Tweets and wall posts are nice, but they don't win elections.
If you're not going to Ohio to knock on doors this time around, then give money. If you don't want to give money, make phone calls. Door knocking and phone calls are still the only things that actually win elections and your money just helps buy phone minutes and paper for the walk lists a harder working volunteer than us will use in Ohio or Virginia or Wisconsin.
But whatever you do, don't sit here and wallow, thinking that somehow you didn't get what you signed up for four years ago. It's sad. It's sad because you got more than anyone could have really dreamed. You got it all. And by being sad about it, you're exhibiting an extraordinary amount of selfishness because you didn't get a higher level of debate in Washington -- just health care for your neighbor who actually needs it to live.
Don't be sad. Be happy. The world is a better place, and you did that in 2008.
We did that in 2008.
We can do it again.